I was privileged to access my Right to Education. Until 6th std., I studied at St. John’s School, an ICSE board convent school. We were 70 of us in a class. The attendance call would take about 15 minutes every day. When I was in class 6, I observed my cousins who went to a different school and always spoke about the activities and sports they had there. I was tempted to join them and begged my parents to change my school, totally unaware of our finances and the hefty school fees. I can still recall the conversation between my parents that I overheard. My mother kept telling my father to allow me to change my school but he was a bit reluctant. My elder brother had completed his schooling from St. John’s and was doing well. So he felt that there was no reason for me to change. At last, they agreed to make this shift despite the extra burden it brought.
In The Aryan International School, I got decent education. It forced me to move out of my comfort zone. There were lesser students in the class and we got individual attention from teachers. I played sports, acted in skits, learnt fire dance; but my education overall grossly failed to teach us critical thinking. I still remember how the lectures were one way, there was encouragement to score well but no efforts were put in motivating us to think, speak and interact.
When I read about Rajghat School in my hometown, Varanasi, based on Jiddu Krishnamurti’s philosophy, it gave a new perspective on education and how learning should give space for children to grow. In our set up, there was more competition and less cooperation. I remember accepting everything we were taught because there were hardly any questions raised. Being critical was discouraged. Moving further, I have been appreciative about Article 21A and the RTE Act giving free and compulsory education. But today when I observe the grassroot reality here in Bihar, in government schools with either no teachers or those with low capacity, combined with poor infrastructure and lack of basic facilities, I can’t stop myself from thinking and asking, why? What purpose is this serving? How can this be improved?
I don’t have those answers but my journey at i-Saksham has given a new meaning to my understanding of education. Here, the organization strongly believes that in geographical areas where quality education hasn’t reached, local youth from the community have it in them to bring about major change in their surroundings.
Through i-Saksham Fellowship model, we identify local youth who are already teaching in their community or are motivated to teach. Through an assessment, we find suitable people who attend training sessions once a week where they learn different ways of teaching. It builds their confidence as well as knowledge through content and activity based learning. Many community teachers who come in this program, lack basic English, Hindi and Maths (class 1–5 level). The focus is to build their capacity and understanding so that they can further do the same in their centres.
In a traditional way, these teachers would usually make the children mug up, hit them and do not use any creative methodology. Here at i-Saksham they make learning fun by using practice sheets, ganit mala, UTH block, tablets for technology, bolo app, word swipe, math dual.
Furthermore, every fellow has a buddy who visits fellow’s learning center and extends support in areas they need it. While talking to them and visiting their centers and schools, I got to know of many challenges such as children being irregular in schools, parents not encouraging them to study, migration leading to them dropping out of schools for a few months, poor health and hygiene. We motivate fellows to organize parents teachers meeting, as it provides a platform to both the fellows as well as parents to understand and work on some of these challenges.
Additionally, we strongly believe that every fellow has a dream and an aspiration that they are capable of fulfilling, if required amount of resources, right kind of opportunities and a platform is provided. Many of them are preparing for higher education and/or competitive exams or want to become a teacher. We guide them in achieving these aspirations. At present, there are 91 fellows both in Jamui and Munger and 50 learning centers where about 2500 students are enrolled. Apart from their own centers, i-Saksham fellows are currently facilitating as volunteers in the following schools:
- Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyalaya, Jamui
- Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyalaya, Khaira
- Madhya Vidhyalaya Sharadhi, Munger
- Prathamik Vidhyalaya, Daniyapur
- Prathamik Vidhyalaya, Kathor
What keeps the fellowship and school intervention going, is the purpose, i.e. learning and educating. Fellows learn different teaching skills, build their knowledge and confidence to further educate students and make learning fun.