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Accessible Education

‘Education for all’ can help, in time, to eradicate the deep societal divides of caste, economic strata and gender. Supplementary Schools are the grassroots drivers of this change.They groom and prepare rural children for the competitive atmosphere of schools and ensure an accepting attitude towards education. find find find

To achieve itsgoal where all eligible children enrol into local government schools and complete at least minimum level of education, RDT started supplementary schools in its project villages.The initial Supplementary Schools were informal in nature, and held at available venues, sometimes temples, under large trees, and even in government school premises. Most of the poor settlements at the time did not have a pukka structure, a building to serve as a landmark for itself. So making such a structure followed in a few settlements.

To achieve itsgoal where all eligible children enrol into local government schools and complete at least minimum level of education, RDT started supplementary schools in its project villages.

The initial Supplementary Schools were informal in nature, and held at available venues, sometimes temples, under large trees, and even in government school premises.

“Earlier, only higher-caste children enrolled for engineering and medicine. Now,youth from all walks of life and castes compete for seats.”
Mr. AdinarayanaMurty
Retired Principal,College

Most of the poor settlements at the time did not have a pukka structure, a building to serve as a landmark for itself. So making such a structure followed in a few settlements.

This building was meant to house the supplementary school, and when not in use as a school, serve as a shared community space which could be put to other uses as needed, thereby giving them a chance to learn from shared experience and attend trainings held on health, land-use, women’s development, and so on as a part of the initiatives by RDT’s other sector programmes.

Since basic subsistence was an issue, Supplementary Schoolsstarted the day with a nutritious meal, which was a big draw for mothers to bring their children along for. At these schools, RDT staff sat with the mothers to make children presentable for school by oiling and combing their hair etc. and lessons in basic hygiene and neatness would be impressed upon them.In time, the meal was supplemented with a supply of uniforms, books and bicycles.Supplying bicycles to children was a particularly appreciated gesture, traditionally, children had to walk many kilometres to their schools, and bicycles not only eased their load physically, but also helped them look forward to their school commutes – and thereby improve their drive to study.

With these basics in place, families slowly came around to sending their children regularly to local schools, taking their place with children from other communities, something that they were otherwise reluctant to do- since for generations education itself was seen as something that higher caste and better off children indulged in.

Supplementary Schoolsalso ran classes in extra-curricular activities such as song, dance, drama and sports, allowing the rural poor children to stand out among their better-off peers in govt. schools, and boosting their self-esteem and confidence. Supplementary Schools also ran holiday coaching prior to Class VI and Class X admission exams to ensure their competitiveness with their peers from regular schools.

In parallel with promoting school attendance, RDT continued to hold discussions with their mostly uneducated parents about education and taking an interest in their child’s progress. An education was presented as desirable to the parents because it meant that children could live more independently. Also, an engaged parent would be less likely to pull their child out of school to meet interim labour/wage needs.

Aside from working on the attitudes and constraints of the community towards education, RDT also paid attention to the infrastructural issues faced by and in government schools. Most government schools provided only minimum facilities, RDT helped these schools meet infrastructure shortfalls and improve quality of their delivery. For example, they supplied science equipment which enabled teachers to engage with children through demonstrative learning methods. Other materials such as books, question banks for students appearing for Class X exam were provided. In addition, RDT assisted schools in setting up drinking water counters, supplying nutritious meals, constructions of separate toilets for girls – a need that impacted girls’ health, and construction of separate classroom blocks and/or verandas.

The retention levels in schools grew slowly, and over time, enthusiastic parents andelders were encouraged to form Community Development Committees (CDCs) to meet formally and discuss school and village affairs. CDCs were empowered to interview and select teachers and kept tabs on the retention levels and attendance regularity at the local level.By 1993, RDT started to hand over the management and financing ofSupplementary Schools to the respective CDCs. It proposed a 75:25 sharing arrangement between RDT and CDCs to encourage autonomous functioning of the schools.Met with stiff resistance at first, it took a few difficult years before some functioning CDCs took on 25% funding of the school expenses.

Today all Community Based Teachers’ (CBTs) salaries are paid out of CDC funds.For its part, RDT facilitates CDCs in screening candidates aspiring to become CBTs, as well as in periodically upgrading their skills in academics and classroom management.

With enrolment well on its way, and parents’ attitudes also improving, the focus broadened to ensure that children stayed in school.To this end, Children’s Savings Grants were established, whereRs. 700 was credited annually to a savings fund for each childshortlisted by the CDC, from the ages of 5 through 18 while they were in school. The yearly amount served as an encouragement for them to stay enrolled, and served as a savings fund for the child on completing school and attaining adulthood – parents were also encouraged to deposit what they could when possible to their child’s/children’s fund.

Additionally, RDT has been providing higher educational grants for all community children with poor socio-economic background who are pursuing their higher, professional/technical courses.  It reduces the burden of parents to a certain extent in paying fee or buying books or meeting their other basic needs.

Today, there are 3,377 CDCs, 142 of which are solely composed of women, across 2,806 villages. Due to the involvement of parents in children’s education, regular monitoring of supplementary schools by CDCs, and improved functioning of government schools, the percentage enrolment of eligible children has increased to 100% in primary classes (up to Class V) and 99% in secondary classes (Class VI to X) and retention in primary classes has subsequently risen to 93%.

Starting with counselling sessions with mothers and children in courtyards and temples, the Supplementary School program has grown from strength to strength, to form a support network that today allows meritorious students access to the infrastructure and funds needed to educate themselves to the best of their abilities and lead their communities as role models for the benefits of education.

HIGHLIGHTS
 
STAFF SPEAK
 

“Establishment of CDCs has proved to be beneficial for all. . Through awareness programmes, parents have become active promoters of education, and many children have joined residential schools in the district. Community accountability and participation in ensuring a bright future for its young generation.”

N.Ranganayakulu Head Master, ZillaParishad High School, P.C.Kothakota, Best Teacher Award recipient by then President of India, PratibhaPatil

SUCCESS STORY
 

I am Sravani studying inclass V. I came from B.K.Samudram village, and I belong to a Dalit family. I have a younger sister who is studying in Class I, and a younger brother 3 years old. My parents are agricultural labourers. We have no source of other income. My parents are very much interested in our studies and inspite of all our difficulties, they are sending us to school. My teacher tells us about the importance of school and how it can help to become successful. I see them work throughout the day, since me and my sister go to school, my mother has to work on the farm as well as at home to cook food and clean the house.

I am a good student, and I work very hard to make sure in future I will be able to give my parents, brother and sister a comfortable life. With the encouragement of my tuition teacher, I have participated in the Art Festival at our school and bagged a prize for Best Handwriting. RDT makes a deposit for every school going child, so every year I am getting Rs. 700 from RDT, at present I have more than Rs. 3,500 in my account. With 3 children and the other expenses of the house, my parents would not have been able to save specially for me.My RDT money grows in the deposit, and I will make sure I study as much as possible with the help of that amount.

I will work hard, write my entrance exams, and become a doctor to serve my village people.

PARADIGM SHIFT
 

The future prospects of children from the last generation and prior to that, were uniformly limited. They rarely had the confidence to leave their district, and if they did, it was to seek menial employment since they had limited education and skills. Today,rural poor children can access opportunities their parents and elders couldn’t even imagine, and thereby better the entire community’s living standards.

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