TMS students take on ‘freedom’ in final projects

Azadi. Swecha. Freedom.

No matter the language or dialect, freedom (or lack thereof) is an idea that humans around the world grapple with everyday. For students at Seetaphalmandi Government High School in Secunderabad, Hyderabad, and MGM Girls Government High School in Nampally, Hyderabad, this idea lent inspiration for their final projects.

Students at both the schools participated in a social media campaign called #TMSFreedomIs. Using this hashtag, students reflected on what freedom means to them, took photos representing this idea, and shared their thoughts on Instagram. This allowed their ideas to extend to a wider and more interactive network of people. We also talked about what it means to be responsible on social media, an important lesson as kids start to use social networks at a younger age than ever before. The campaign lasted about three weeks and we saw responses from people in Delhi, South Africa, Minnesota, and Boston. It was a great lesson in how to use social media to create productive conversation.

Then students reflected on how they wanted to share their ideas of freedom with the world, which is where the two schools differed.

MGM: Freedom for girls has always been a point of lengthy discussion at this all-girls school. As we talked more and more about what freedom means to us, it became clear that freedom for girls is an issue that the class cared deeply about. Due to this, students at MGM split into various groups and completed interviews, research, and creative interpretations of freedom in order to create a varied look at freedom from a girls’ perspective. Though there is a ways to go, the girls agreed that talking about the issues is a very important first step, especially since issues like child marriage and the ability to go outside the home stem from family. The girls created a print magazine to accompany the documentary in order to show their families and community to start the discussion about freedom for girls at a local level. Check out their ambitious film here:


Seetaphalmandi: Since the students devoted a few weeks to a classroom exchange with a school in Thailand (and had already done a documentary project), we focused more on letting the kids dictate what they wanted to see from the project. In their video, you will see their social media contributions, a poster project, and interpretations of what freedom means to them. Students at Seetaphalmandi are always enthusiastic about using the cameras and creating stories, which definitely shines through in this final project:


Overall, these students took on a very tough subject and were able to express some very nuanced ideas. I am proud of their work and I know that this discussion will continue as they grow in their education and lives. Interested in seeing more? Check out the hashtag #TMSFreedomIs on Instagram.


Our Environment

Although the Final Celebration at Railway was the official showcase and end to TMS classes, we all decided to have small-scale celebrations at our AIF schools for the students who could not make it out to Railway.  We were lucky to have a few special visitors for those celebrations, including Liz Jones, a friend from the American Consultate in Hyderabad, who came out to meet the students at MGM and watch the screening of their video On the Road: Traffic in Hyderabad.  She was greeted by the customary sea of students and the chorus of “Hello m’am’s,” and interacted warmly and patiently with the onslaught.  The girls were so excited to have a visitor and to get a chance to examine the Ipad she brought along to teach them about the Consulate’s webpage and Facebook site.  She also took a lovely class photo for us and offered to cross-post the video on the Consulate’s webpage to help spread the video’s important message about pedestrian rights.

We are so proud of the videos the girls have produced this semester. Aside from all the work that went into writing, directing, shooting, and planning these video projects, many of our students also engaged in service learning projects that taught them how to become change-makers in their communities. It was truly inspiring to see this realization take hold in them. I look forward to hearing about the progress of these different projects — the TMS garden and clean-up project and the efforts of the girls at MGM to bring attention to the dismal conditions of the roads and hazards to pedestrians in front of their school.

Samantha’s Railway Class: Our Environment

Sultan Bazar: Our Time in TMS

Our Time in TMS from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

MGM School: On the Road

On the Road: Traffic in Hyderabad from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

Great job, girls! Your teachers are so proud of you!

Communities Rising Video: Women in Sports

The girls at Analadi High Secondary School voted overwhelmingly to create a video about their favorite sports and games. They explain the rules of their favorite games while demonstrating the technical skill through video. As a runner myself (I completed the Hyderabad Heritage Half Marathon the day after we returned from Tamil Nadu, coming in 6th in my category), I was thrilled to work with a group of active girls who wanted to prove that women can be just as athletic as boys.


Analadi Hostel Girls: Women in Sports from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

MGM Photostories

As Srilekha mentioned, its the holiday season, which means people are erecting ornate elephant statues all over the streets, feasting to mark the end of Ramzan as well as shopping, gathering with family and generally contributing to a lot of human traffic and celebration in the streets. What the holiday season also means, is that classes get canceled, so it has taken the girls at MGM a little more time to complete the project. However, we are still quite pleased with the results and hope that you are too!

Amina Achieves Her Ambition

MGM Photostory: How to Achieve Your Ambition from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

Mera Sapana (My Dream)

MGM Photostory: Mera Sapana from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

Urdu Medium Photostory

MGM Urdu Medium Photostory: School Through the Years from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

MGM Through the Years

MGM School Through the Years from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

Let the Photostories Begin!

Reading over my earlier post, I smiled to myself as I passed over the lines I wrote about the challenges of the language barrier at Sultan Bazaar where we are working with students from Telugu, Urdu, and English mediums. Just three weeks earlier I wrote, “Stella and I are teaching these classes together and we hope that once they get to do more hands-on activities with the equipment they will learn more concrete skills that are easier to communicate through the language barrier.” Low and behold, the girls at Sultan Bazaar were the first to finish the photostory project. In fact, it only took them three classes to turn out products that are original and a true team effort.

I was most touched by the girls’ ability to work together and support each other in the daunting task of producing a group photostory in a language most girls don’t speak. In each group the English medium students took the lead, but instead of dominating the camera or the computer, they translated dutifully to the other members of their group. All students shared in the entire creative process and Wednesday’s class was a very calm session, with all the girls huddled around the computer in a semi-circle, passing the keyboard to write captions in Windows Movie Maker and helping each other to spell words and locate letters on the keyboard.

How To Achieve Your Ambition

Sultan Bazar: Achieving Your Ambition from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

School Through the Years

Sultan Bazar Photostory: School Through the Years from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

The three groups in my Railway class have also finished their projects this week, after a few interruptions to the schedule due to their Independence Day performance at the Office of the Railway Commissioner. Their performance Monday was quite the spectacle and they did a great job. Stay tuned for video and photos from the TMS camera-crew! For now, you can watch another photostory that illustrates how young girls can overcome obstacles and achieve their ambitions.

Samantha’s Railway Class Photostory: How to Achieve Your Ambition from The Modern Story on Vimeo.