Going from strength to strength

NGO

The Anedoddi government school is unlike the stereotypical government school. The school has seen a huge increase in attendance; the pass percentage of students now stands at 100 per cent, all thanks to the Sikshana Foundation, writes Poornima Kandi

MODEL SCHOOL The Anedoddi government school. Photo by the authorKiran Kumar, a 13-year-old boy describes his trip to Delhi with a twinkle in his eyes. Hailing from a remote village, Anedoddi of Kanakapura taluk, Kiran now studies in a government school. He bagged the opportunity to visit Delhi as an incentive for having won a quiz competition organised by Sikshana Foundation, an NGO. With intervention from Sikshana Foundation, Kiran and his friends have discovered a newfound joy for learning. Unlike typical government schools, this school and many others in Kanakapura taluk have students in full attendance and the teachers are serious about teaching. They have fared well in their exams too!

The students of Anedoddi government school are a happy lot. Most of the students who belong to the Thigala community, a scheduled tribe of the region, are pursuing their education seriously in the government school. Unlike the typical dilapidated government school, this one has a well-maintained garden, cleaner surroundings and has students in full attendance. Headmaster Najundappa says, “This school was started 50 years ago. Till recently, the drop-out rate of students was very high. Now there is a remarkable increase in the attendance. In fact, a few students who had moved to private schools have come back to this school.” The pass percentage of the students has increased and now stands at 100 per cent in this school.

Also, it has a well-stocked collection of books, dedicated teachers, and is a model for other government schools. 

Unlike the conventional method of offering infrastructure support, Sikshana Foundation stepped in to improve the education system in government schools by offering professional as well as monetary support by partnering with the state governments. V R Prasanna, the CEO at Sikshana, says, “Our attempt is not just towards improving the state of a few schools or a few children studying. Rather, it is aimed at evolving a sustainable model, which will lend itself to replication on a larger scale.”

The participatory approach involving the local community has paid off rich dividends in several such schools. Offering scholarships to students, regular monitoring and assistance to students in their studies has made a positive impact on the overall performance of government schools.

Making a difference 

This Foundation is the brainchild of E S Ramamurthy, who is the founder member of Sivasri Trust, which operates Sikshana. The organisation focuses on the child as the sole beneficiary of all efforts. It believes that the interest of the child can and should be served even if the community or the parents are not adequately geared towards this objective. 

What started as small efforts by Sikshana Foundation in the year 2003 to improve the education system in government schools, has now spread to other states like Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Today, they are working with 400 schools across the three states, including Karnataka. In Karnataka, they are working in Kanakapura, Kalghatagi taluk and a few taluks of Davangere and Hoskote. 

Learning through fun

In the schools adopted by Sikshana, the students are introduced to the habit of reading books through book shop visits, book exhibitions and daily reading programmes for children in the upper primary level. They are encouraged to pick story books and books which are not available in schools. This has helped the students to develop a sense of ownership towards books. The students are made accountable for maintaining diaries in their respective schools. The organisation equips children with sufficient writing supplies to improve their writing skills.
They bring in experts to prepare students in sports, fine arts and cultural events. 

An annual trip to Delhi as a prize on winning quiz competition has become a ‘must-do’ for a lot of students. Students from the schools adopted by Sikshana are selected through a quiz competition conducted by Amruth Foundation and are sent to Delhi on an excursion.

Prasanna says, “by involving the children and their school in the quiz competition, we have been able to increase their interest levels in studies. In fact, the very idea of sending children to Delhi has made the parents and teachers take this quiz seriously.” He further adds, “Sikshana conducts an annual day programme, awards ‘best school of the year’ and sends teachers on educational tours with an expected outcome of motivating them to perform better. Teachers are selected based on their performance and their specific interests for the tours and this has created a sense of competition among them.”  

Empowering teachers & youth 

The teachers are encouraged to improve skills through constant interaction and workshops conducted by Sikshana Foundation. Several volunteers are also involved to help these teachers in implementing approaches for the overall development of a child. Some of the women in the villages, who have a basic degree or diploma in education, are involved as volunteers to help students with their homework. The volunteers are paid to monitor the children in maintaining consistency in their learning. “We have seen that this has worked very well with children. They promptly finish their homework because a vigil is being maintained by these volunteers, thus bringing a sense of seriousness among children,” says Prasanna.

A network of mentors, field workers and volunteers help in monitoring the overall progress of the schools. Mentors are identified by Sikshana for each region. They visit every school in the region at least once a month and ensure compliance to Sikshana. These mentors are typically the local youth, who are educated but unemployed. Roopa is one such young woman, who is an active mentor managing schools in 80 villages of Kanakapura. 

Prasanna adds, “typically one mentor covers 10-15 schools. By involving youngsters, we are trying to empower the youth of the village who are unemployed. Since they understand the needs of the community better, it is easier for us to work with local communities and schools.” In addition, a team of Field Workers provide logistic support. These field workers are typically college students who are hired to visit the schools as often as needed and distribute memos, supplies etc. In addition, local mentors are identified who monitor schools in their locality. The mentors form an essential link between the communities, schools and Sikshana Foundation.

This model of ‘Private Public Participation’ has proved to be an innovative method in improving educational standards in public schooling system. In a country where 90 per cent of children in the age group of 6-14 go to a public school, working towards improving the quality of education system through participatory approach is the need of the hour. If all goes well, another 1000 government schools will receive benefits through this intervention by the end of 2012.

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