Defining the ‘Whatever’

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I distinctly remember my first visit to a school in Mokhada over 10 years ago. Crumbling infrastructure, low hygiene, no access to water were just some of the things that come to mind when I think back in time. But one thing that stood out the most was – the children and their keenness to learn. The spark in their eyes on seeing someone new, the anticipation on their faces in the hope to learn something different. They were like sponges – just waiting to absorb whatever came their way. That’s when we made it our mission to define the ‘whatever‘. All these children needed was the access and opportunity to education – a basic right that is often taken for granted in urban centres.

Like everything we do at Aroehan, our education programme has been carefully designed too. It has been culled out of our experiences, out of the need expressed by children, parents and teachers and out of our compulsive need to ensure that children are guaranteed the basic Right to Education.

Mokhada has a total of 10 Ashram Schools – residential schools for tribal children ( 7 are government and  3 are privately run) 158  schools run by the Zilla Parishad  out of which  13 schools are  up to the  7th std and the remaining are till the 4th std.

The main focus of our work on education is the implementation of the provisions of the Right to Education Act. But where does one begin in a place like Mokhada where children are grappling with core issues of access to schools, migration and the lack of awareness of what they are entitled to?

We had to begin from scratch.

First on our to-do list was getting all our facts straight – gathering data, understanding what the current situation was. Luckily for us, the Micro Planning process had provided us with rich data that gave us information on the total number of children in Mokhada, how many were in school, how many had dropped out and how many had never been to school. It also gave us information on the school infrastructure. In addition to this, we started working on a programme called GGG ( Girls Gaining Ground) – that was focused on adolescent girls’ health.  We had a lot to begin with.

Our initial interaction with school children was on the issue of health and hygiene, but how could we talk about hygiene when they didn’t have access to water? This is when we developed a somewhat integrated approach within our education programme and began working on the RTE, health as well as the issue of water.

We began a rainwater harvesting  project in some Ashram Schools along with the students and teachers, but after a lot of trial and error we had to discontinue this work.

In 2011, the RTE act made provision for the formation of a School Monitoring Committee (SMC) – that comprises of 15 people that include parents, students, the Principal, Anganwadi worker ( if there is any in the area) as well as representation from a local organisation. It mandates a 50:50 male female ratio ensuring gender equality. The SMC shook up existing power structures within the village and took away authority from the Sarpanch in decision making. The first step was actually setting up this committee and  ensuring its smooth functioning. After that began the planning of regular meetings and setting the agenda and yearly plan of action. Now this was a very interesting process. Very often the school administration would set up their own committees with known people, or not even inform people that they are on the committee. Several committees had to be reformed.  Never before had this versatile group of people sat down together and talked leave alone decided on something together. Class, caste, age, gender barriers are slowly being dissolved.  Women attend all the meetings but their participation still needs to be facilitated to some extent.

Training on using plaster of Paris to make articles

Training on using plaster of Paris to make articles

Through this committee school activities are planned, school infrastructure is looked into, filling up of vacant teacher posts are taken up among other things.

Now, all this is fine when you are working on the issue of education. But all this serious talk can get a little overwhelming for children ( and us!), there has to be a ‘fun’ element while working with children. So that’s when we sat down with the children and asked them what they wanted to learn and do apart from school. Art, craft, learning new skills were some of the things mentioned by them. So we planned exciting training programmes for children based on their interest areas. We even get them involved in creating and spreading awareness on child rights.  In the month of May every year, through the medium of songs and slogans and posters children walk through villages telling people about their ( children’s) rights.

Marble and spoon race!

Marble and spoon race!

 Staff as well as students talk to children who are out of school or have dropped out of school with them aim of enrolling them before the beginning of the next term. We then have a fun day planned with them where they have various games and competitions – all this culminates in a ‘palak-sabha’ ( parents meeting) where children are awarded prizes based on their achievements. Its a proud moment for parents as well as children!

Once every year, we have a ‘Bal-Melava’ – a gathering of children at the the Taluka level where children of all the schools of Mokhada get to display or talk about what they have achieved over the year. This includes exhibiting their craft, or dancing the traditional dance or singing their favorite song. This meleva is an excellent platform for children, parents as well as educators to come together. It’s encouraging and uplifting for children to be part of this process.

Defining the ‘whatever’ is an ongoing process, where we are learning and understanding the issues related to education in Mokhada. Each day and  each interaction brings with it a rich experience that helps us and the children of Mokhada reach new heights.

Manisha Desai

Aroehan requires volunteers for this programme – people who can come to Mokhada, spend time in schools with children -chat with them, tell them something new or teach them a new skill. Do write to us or call us if you feel you fit the bill!

By | 2018-07-06T16:48:14+00:00 May 20th, 2016|Articles, Education|1 Comment

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  1. Mandar May 31, 2016 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Excellent Work by AROEHAN…… Accessing school education was challenging process for Adivasi students at Mokhada Ten years ago. Over the time, situation is transforming with effective and supportive platform by AROEHAN in Mokhada through strong intervention at school level and village level to solve dropout issues, maximizing of girls participation, effective governance of SMCs, organizing Bal Melava and so on. It is really appreciable. It tend to access to quality school education.
    While discussing a school education of Adivasi, Now, It is time to focus on Challenges faced by Adivasi students at Higher education. In today’s context, Higher education is must for surviving in society, especially Adivasi community. We need to assess the position and the situation of Adivasi students in Higher education in terms of ‘Access’ and ‘Opportunity’. Normally, Adivasi students are spending 10-12 years at Formal, residential Ashramschool where most of them are loosing their traditional surviving practices of their locality or forest. They meant to dependent on ‘OUR’ economical system for survival thereafter. But Accessibility, Availability and Affordability of Higher education for Adivasi students are the parameter for the educational consciousness of Adivasi Society. So, It is need to understand the core issue of Adivasi Students in Higher Education to promote educational goal. And, we can expect that AROEHAN will successfully intervene in this issue.

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