Igniting a billion dreams

Igniting a billion dreams

Igniting a billion dreams

‘A child without education is like a bird without wings’ seems to be the motivation for the people at One Billion Literates Foundation, writes Michael Patrao.

Of the seven billion people on this earth, one billion are Indians. In other words every seventh person on this earth is an Indian. However, many Indians are either illiterate or lack computer literacy and fluency in English, the two factors which go a long way in empowering them.

This is an area where Bangalore-based, rurally active, voluntary organisation, One Billion Literates Foundation (OBLF) has its focus.

OBLF aims at equality in education by bringing English and basic computer literacy to the rural areas specifically in government schools from standard three to seven when children are at their impressionable best. Presently, OBLF is active in 10
government schools of Anekal taluk benefitting 400 primary school children.

A wide network

OBLF is also active in government higher primary schools in Adugondannahalli, Guddhati, Muthannalur village, Hale Chandapura and government lower primary schools in Ali Bommansandra, Bendiganahalli, Lakshmisagara, Kadujakkanahalli and Mysoorammanadoddi, all in Anekal taluk.

The Foundation has signed an MoU with the Department of Public Instruction under the School Nurturing Programme in Karnataka. The OBLF model makes use of existing infrastructure of a government school, mobilises resources, augments the income of the community and engages volunteer to mentor the staff.

After identifying and adopting government primary schools, a baseline assessment of the students is conducted, instead of grades to gauge their English skills. This enables every child to learn at his or her own pace.

“We first teach the educated women of the village, some of whom are matriculates or have completed their PUC and two of them are graduates and one is a postgraduate. They are paid coordinators and assistant coordinators who are supervised by a volunteer,” explains Ruby Kamdin, Volunteer Director of OBLF.

By engaging rural women (who were never employed before) as coordinators, OBLF has not only augmented their family incomes and made them realise their potential, but has also made them financially and intellectually independent. They have thus been able to build trust within rural communities.

In addition to monthly allowances, the coordinators are given educational loans for their children, two wheelers for commuting to schools and constant exposure to the world outside their villages.

OBLF conducts weekly in-house training for the coordinators and arranges training for them with other organisations. Volunteers are engaged from the city to take ownership of each school and monitor the work done by the coordinators. In an innovative approach, “telephone volunteers” are also engaged to have daily five-minute English conversations with the coordinators.

Innovative methods

“Our main strength is we design our own syllabus. We do not have rote learning using methods such as role playing and activities like games and storytelling in the teaching of English,” says Kamdin. The focus is on a fun-filled curriculum at two separate levels to teach English and computers basics for an hour every day.

OBLF provides copies of the syllabus created by the Foundation free of cost to children. It also provides other resources like libraries with early learning books and computers seen usually in private schools.

“For teaching of basic computers, we have laptops which have been donated by the corporate sector. There is one laptop for every three or four children. Some philanthropists have even donated tablets and we have developed our own apps.
The students are assessed annually, based on their performance and not on the basis of their class or age. They are thus classified into junior, middle (intermediate) and senior levels. The annual cost per child works out to Rs 3000,” explains Kamdin.

Founder and Managing Trustee Anamika Majumder, a software engineer in the US, moved back to India after 12 years in May 2010 to set up One Billion Literates Foundation because she believes the need of the hour is to improve state-run schools. Anamika now works as a software professional in the Boston area.

The Foundation is a registered Charitable Trust u/s 12AA of the Income Tax Act. You can reach them at rubyk@onebillionliterates.org or at www.onebillionliterates.org.

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