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School-cum-Community Centres

RDT has been encouraging inclusiveness in education and community participation by constructing new public buildings or by enhancing existing government school infrastructure. These buildings also serve as a meeting point for Community Based Organisations (CBOs) which lend the community prestige and recognition.

Father Ferrer’s vision included making communities rich and self-sufficient, capable of implementing large scale projects to uplift their infrastructure. Presently, the Village Republics or Gram Swaraj Nidhi enables this vision in different villages across the district. The scheme was introduced in 2005, and about 1000 villages have a fund sanctioned by RDT. It ran till and has now been discontinued in accordance with the prevailing regulations. A sizeable amount per family was put in a common village account and while the principle amount cannot be withdrawn ever, the interest accumulated can be used by the village with common consent for community use. The only exception to this rule where the funds can be used for individual purposes is the building of toilets. Mostly, the community members refrain from commencing projects until the interest reaches a sizeable amount. The resulting amount is managed by RDT and some community members. The candidate villages are shortlisted based on the enthusiasm and involvement of people in RDT programmes, the performance of the village Sanghams and the size of the village (bigger villages were given preference).Students from rural areas are largely dependent upon government-run institutions for their education. But most of such schools lack basic infrastructure such as sufficient classrooms, laboratories, and toilet blocks etc.,

“The new buildings help focus the spotlight on ignored communities. Children can study, grown-ups can confer and the authorities have a venue for dispensing benefits.”
Mrs. K. Nagarathnamma,
Principal, Govt. Jr. College, Gooty

which negatively impact the quality of education for them. Moreover, even though the right to education is a fundamental human right, historical inequalities have rendered certain sections of the society, such as the Dalits and backward tribes far behind their counterparts in terms of progress. The only way to bring them up to speed is to develop more educational institutions within easy reach of such marginalised communities.

Simultaneously, rural areas often lack organised spaces for inhabitants to convene and discuss matters that impact community growth. Decisions that impact the entire village are often taken in the confines of the homes of few influential families or publics spaces in the centre of villages. As a result, fringe communities such as Dalits and Scheduled Tribes are often left out of the decision making process. Neither are their needs heard, nor their questions answered, therefore reinforcing their passive status in the community building process.

RDT focuses on constructing multipurpose infrastructure that would not only function as a supplementary school, but would also act as a community centre that will drive healthy debates and interactions within the community. The centres are constructed in an area of1300 sq feet, and are 60cm elevated from the ground with the verandah in-front. The size of each classroom is 30 x 20 feet and that of another room is 10 x 20 feet.

Educational Infrastructure

The lack of proper education has far-reaching consequences on the present and future of any society. When schools lack space, they hold classes out in the open which makes the educational experience vulnerable to weather changes and disruptions by noise, insects and even animals.

Additionally, most schools lack separate bathrooms for girls and the absence of this basic necessity, especially in adolescence, interrupts the schooling of many girls. Therefore, RDT supports government schools by expanding facilities to deliver better quality education to rural students. These initiatives include constructing additional classrooms, libraries, laboratories and toilet blocks, providing drinking water and laying out the school ground for sports.

Improvement in educational infrastructure directly translates into a better learning experience for students. Spacious and well-lit classrooms enable even those sitting in the farthest corners, to understand what the teacher is saying or writing. Availability of functional bathrooms and drinking water helps students to focus on the task at hand. Protection from natural elements such as sun and rain ensures regularity of classes while the absence of insects and animals ensures a safe environment free from distractions.

Before embarking on any such project, RDT initiates construction activity after signing an MOU with the school authorities. The programme has been going on from 1999 onwards with new structures being built and government structures being ramped up in over 94 villages. Additionally, RDT extensively built supplementary schools cum community centres.

Community Infrastructure

In rural areas, most public buildings are in the main village and fringe communities such as Dalits and Scheduled Tribes do not have access to them. RDT believes that genuine development in a region can happen only when all sections of the society collaborate and have a say in their future. Moreover, our Community Based Organisations (CBOs) need proper infrastructure in order to operate effectively. In this context, RDT constructs community buildings in villages to serve as a forum for community meetings, outreach medical consultations, supplementary schools and nutrition centres to distribute food packets. Till 1994, RDT had tie-ups with donor agencies like ADD, CCF, Action Aid and ICCO to raise funds for constructing these centres. Community centres enable people to interact and utilise the space for community related discussions and socio-economic, health and development initiatives.

Each project must fulfil the following criteria for being considered eligible for RDT intervention:

  • The absence of alternate places suitable for running community schools and for conducting meetings and workshops.
  • Presence of people’s organisations such as women and PWD groups.
  • An enthusiastic community that is actively involved in RDT’s initiatives.
  • A legally clear site, either given by the government, or purchased from others with proper documents for the purpose of construction.

The creation of such spaces encourages the participation of marginalised communities in decision making, helps in disbursement of government benefits and encourages participation in local governance (elections, pulse polio camps or government body meetings). It even supports RDT’s activities in other sectors as well such as Health, Women, Education, CBR and Culture.

HIGHLIGHTS
 
STAFF SPEAK

At RDT, our efforts towards transforming the future will bear fruit only if children can exercise their right to education. Therefore, improving and developing educational infrastructure is critical to our Habitat initiative and also to create a more equitable society. In addition, by making schools, the centres of community interaction, we have been able to link two major requirements of development – education and cohesive communities.

Mrs. P. Jyothi Kumari,
Regional Engineer

SUCCESS STORY
 

RDT successfully transformed a dilapidated Zilla Parishad High school in Chinnekotta Palli in 2012.

Before RDT took charge, insufficient rooms forced teachers to take classes out in the open or in the verandah. However, frequent incursions by monkeys disrupted classes and were a general menace. In addition, the school premises did not have any fencing and a large ditch at the entrance posed serious risk to children. Because of these issues, enrolment in the school gradually reduced. While in 2006 total enrolment of the school was above 1000, later reports pegged it around 630.

RDT estimated that the cost of expansion and repairs would be around INR 70 lakhs, of which the school management contributed INR 3 lakhs. After filling up the ditch at the entrance, the construction began in April, 2012 and took 9 months to complete.

Large, airy and fully electrified, the new building has plenty of rooms to easily accommodate all students, a 1000-litre capacity water tank, drinking water facility and separate toilet facility for girls and the staff. Inaugurated on 21st December 2012, the building was christened as ‘Fr. Vicente Ferrer block’.

Since all students now have access to pucca classrooms, neither the weather nor the monkeys distract them anymore from their studies. The Headmaster feels that the improved infrastructure has resulted in better performance of all the students. Having heard the success story of C.K. Palli Zilla Panchayat School, school managements from neighbouring villages are also contemplating construction of infrastructure facilities in their schools via RDT’s Habitat team.

“I feel secured and was able to score 85% marks in my exams. Thanks to RDT, the new building changed my educational growth path.”

Ashok,
10th Std., C.K. Palli Zilla Panchayat School

PARADIGM SHIFT
 

Earlier, villagers would get to know of elections, voter card application drives or government health camps too late for most of them to change their routine and head to the town centre. Having a school cum community hall means, that government and health officials can convene meetings within their settlement. Nearly every villager now has an Aadhar card, voter’s I.D. etc.

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