Sejal Pathak, a Class II student of a government school in Gujarat’s Kathda village is unusually enthusiastic about her studies these days. “I am excited to meet a new teacher who has been coming to teach us Math. I like my new ma’am because she comes home after school and sensitises my parents on the importance of education,” says the little girl. Sejal’s “new ma’am” is not a new teacher, but a volunteer who, besides teaching Math, is empowering students to adopt self-learning.
In a country where education infrastructure is still in the making and public schools are struggling to maintain the right quality of education, community involvement is the only way to fast-track a child’s journey towards self-development. Through a slew of initiatives since 2012, Shiksha Sarthi, a partnership between Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (CGPL) and Pratham Foundation has been working in the area of education relentlessly.
The main objective behind starting the Shiksha Sarthi program is to work towards improving the learning levels of children in Mandvi and Mundra blocks in Kutch District and try and build a model focusing on ownership at the community level so that parents would be more involved with their children’s education. The focus is also on creating a capacity development model center around students in classes 3-5 and classes 1-2 aimed at strengthening their foundation in languages and Math.
Read India Plus is a program that creates a self-sustaining learning environment so that group learning becomes an accepted way of learning. In Read India Plus, the staff took on the facilitator’s role and let children take ownership of their own learning. This program aimed to create a learning environment in which children evolve into curious thinkers and confident individuals. As part of the program, each CRL conducted two Read India Plus Camps in two villages. Each camps ran for 16 days. The camp was conducted in schools or communities. As part of these camps, the CRLs focused on Gujarati and Math.
The last two days of the first phase of the camp and the last day of the fourth camp saw children present the models created by them. CRLs and the mentors made regular home visits to persuade parents to pay more interest to their children’s studies. In the intervening period between the camps, children were encouraged to complete the tasks assigned by the CRLs. Parents were also encouraged to track whether their children were completing the worksheets which were given to students so that they could practice solving math problems as well as build problems to improve their arithmetic skills.
CGPL and Pratham Foundation is delighted to see the overwhelming response of the community towards this intervention. Around 65 per cent children attended Read India Plus camps for more than 14 days. Based on the data, it can be seen at baseline, 43 per cent of the children could answer Direct Fact Retrieval Questions correctly.