“What if we turn their weaknesses into their glory!”

‘Anshu, a young girl from Bihar, is a part of i-Saksham. She started distributing worksheets for her students from her Kirana (Provision) store when their parents visited for groceries during the pandemic. She came up with this idea to ensure that the kids in her village learn even during the lockdown.’ Divya, a member of i-Saksham, told team ulaunch.

Primary education: a harsh reality and hope

The Indian Government has enacted various legislations and policies to ensure quality primary education. While the schools in urban areas had better learning outcomes due to better infrastructure, human resources and monitoring, the schools of rural India have significant ground to cover.

The kids learn from each other during discussions.

Recently, the central government came out with the National Education Policy in 2019 seeking foundational literacy and numeracy for all by 2025. To have more aware and educated citizens, we need to have our base strengthened from the primary education stage. But it’s difficult to achieve due to pushing of children in child labour early on, especially in rural areas and ineffective implementation of policies & programs by the administration. A capable and empowered community is the last hope to bring about sustainable change in the education space.

i-Saksham is working towards improving the educational outcomes in villages in a holistic and innovative manner by building capabilities of communities to strengthen the education delivery at grassroots. Founded in 2015 by 3 Prime Minister’s Rural Development fellows (PMRDF)—Ravi, Aditya and Shravan working in different fields in Munger and Jamui districts of Bihar; it strives to provide solutions within the community. It empowers the youth of a community who in turn teach the kids in their locality, thus ensuring better understanding and engagement. The idea emerged in 2012 when the fellows noticed that children in such areas were not able to read or do simple maths. This was due to:

  • Low skilled and unmotivated teachers in government schools
  • Insufficient infrastructure
  • Low participation of parents in education
  • Lack of interest of students due to rote learning methods
Proper learning environment for students is ensured by i-Saksham

Eduleader, the agent of change

i-Saksham chooses youth as ‘Eduleaders’ to empower and sensitize their community towards education.

They act as agents of change by becoming Saksham (capable) and making their communities Saksham through learning. The organisation trains these young people turning them into skilled mentors. It started with a short training program with classes for pedagogy, functional English and digital literacy affiliated with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).  But they realised it was not enough to train them well. So, i-Saksham fellowship, a two-year-long program was launched in 2017. The first year is dedicated to building their basics and pedagogical knowledge, while in the second year they’re mentored for setting and realising their leadership goals.

The Eduleaders set up community centres to teach in their respective villages, or work as fellows in government schools. They act as a bridge between the community and the schools. They’d further conduct parent-teacher meets and functions like Bal Utsav in collaboration with Panchayat, where education awareness and engagement would take place.

Uniqueness of indigenity

i-Saksham model is unique in terms of building local youths as Eduleaders, and that makes it very different from the other fellowship models. In the case of other fellowship programmes, the fellows are from the different socio-economic and cultural background. To build the ecosystem for the long term, it is critical that change agents are part of the community. And when these Eduleaders succeed in their personal lives, it changes the mindset of the community. When Nikita, an Eduleader, got into Tata Institute of Social Sciences for Masters in Women Studies, she influenced and inspired other girls of her village.

Local community and parents focus on educating the children when they’re sensitized.

i-Saksham has seen 25% and 60% improvement in attendance and learning outcomes respectively, in Munger and Jamui. It is now partnering with organisations such as Bihar Rural livelihood Promotion Society, Bihar Collective, Mahila Samakhya (by MHRD) and other self-help groups. It has also expanded to Gaya and Muzaffarpur districts of Bihar, working with the community institutions. i-Saksham aims to give the power of knowledge, so the community can take ownership itself.

Learning in Pandemic and lockdown

With the Coronavirus crisis, life has changed significantly. Affecting everything from health to employment; education also got hit quite hard. The schools and colleges are shut. Moreover, children in rural areas are losing touch with education due to lack of resources. (You can’t teach them on video calls, yet!)

But i-Saksham didn’t want that to happen so easily. They started teaching kids on normal phone calls thus ensuring that children without internet connections are not left behind. Eduleaders are teaching in groups of 10-12 students per call, and sharing learning activities with families/caregivers to support children. Activities like storytelling and other methods for verbal teaching are undertaken. And reportedly, children enjoy the learning!

Children use the available resources to continue their studies during lockdown.

The organisation leverages technology and provides each Eduleader with a smartphone to teach and self-learn.

Small steps to empowerment

‘When one learns, one opens the mind to the ideas, possibilities and understanding.’

i-Saksham empowers the youth, who in turn sensitize the adults and parents about the education. In this way, the parents’ involvement and awareness increase manifold. The team is attempting to create a symbiotic relationship where the community finds the solution within itself. This ingrains self-confidence, trust and sufficiency within the community. i-Saksham envisions to build a better future through education and learning across the country. And that’s what our country needs!

Article by Prachi Chauhan, Team ulaunch.

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