Chanced upon the bigger problem
“In May 2014, my maid came up to me and my mother and told us that she wants to send her children to school but the children were being denied admission because of some documents not being in place. In the process of helping her, I visited a lot of government offices including the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) schools and slums.”
Charvi was astounded to see the quality of education that is being provided to the children from low income group communities. She spoke to a couple of children and understood that there was a complete mismatch between the child’s academic level on paper and the knowledge he/she had. This also points to the simple fact that while it is great to see Right to Education (RTE) in place it has loopholes that are counter-productive.
Education in India, ASER shows us the mirror
RTE has improved the facilities, brought more kids to the school and increased number of toilets but has failed to provide them with quality education. While school enrolment numbers have gone up (96.5% of all children in the 6-14 age group go to school) and school infrastructure has improved, attendance (in government schools) and the overall ability of children to read and do simple mathematical exercises have dipped.
The survey also revealed that most children in primary schools today are at least three grades behind where they should have been and the situation appears to be worsening. For example, while half of the Class 5 children in government schools were able to read Class 2 texts in 2010, the number has gone down to 41.7% in 2012. Similarly, in 2012, around 50% of the Class-5 students were able to do a two digit subtraction as against 71% in 2010. The number of children in government schools who can correctly recognize numbers up to 100 has dropped to 50 per cent from 70 per cent over the last four years, with the real downward turn distinctly visible after 2010, the year RTE came into force.
The generally poor training and status of the primary school teachers, decline in classroom teaching and scrapping of exams and assessments are major factors for the decline in the quality of education. In the absence of traditional annual examination (students cannot be detained in the same class up to class VIII) the student’s poor learning cannot be detected until class IX. Therefore while RTE is ensuring the right to schooling, the right to education is still far from being realised.
Eklavya – you belong
Charvi’s findings were no different from the study carried out by ASER. “No one knows even basics. It was heart breaking when I spoke to these children, and the worst part was these children don’t even know what they’re missing out on, something that is their right! I went back home and thought about how an educated individual like me can contribute to the children’s lives and help in creating a better tomorrow. I believe that education is a basic need and right and every child deserves it but the problem is that every child is not receiving it.”
And thus was born ‘Eklvaya – you belong’, with a mission to bridge the gap in education. Charvi says, “Educated adults can lead these kids from financially challenged backgrounds in discovering their talent. We empower every kid to grow up into a confident and responsible citizen by means of self-expression and education. We make it possible for these children to transform the courses of their lives. We being the message to our kids that they are cared about and are important.” Mannya Sharma, joined as the co-founder.
On 17th August, 2014, the duo found a park in Ashok Van Dahisar (in Mumbai) and received permission from the government to start classes. They enrolled 75 students and 10 volunteer teachers. Charvi works full time as an interior designer and Mannya is pursuing law with plans of getting into higher education with women and gender rights.
Eklavya ran a pilot project for six months where they spent time with students from low income group communities. This activity gave them a deep insight into the needs of the children and their behavioural patterns. They also studied education in municipal schools and how much exposure a child gets. The team also pondered over how they can get parents to be more involved with their child’s education.
Churning the wheels
In January 2015, Eklavya formed a core team of 15 people who come from varied backgrounds but are united in their passion for bringing about change. They were given responsibilities suited to their experience and interest levels. Eklavya has verticals such as – Curriculum design, operations, volunteer training, accounts, donations and fund raising, counselling, etc.
This academic year 180 students took admission in Eklavya after conducting an admission test which helped categorize children according to their current knowledge levels – basic, intermediate, and advanced.
21 days to a habit
It’s said that for any habit to form, you must do it religiously for 21 days. Eklavya used this in the curriculum design to make modules for 21 days each. Charvi adds, “If we choose a topic, we use the same theme for 21 days and teach it in a play way method in different subjects.” Since Eklavya is an after school activity, they help children even during exams with revision and doubt solving sessions. Eklavya also helps children hone what they’re inherently good at, and helps them pursue it, e.g. students who are very good at math, are made aware of Olympiads and contests, and are encouraged to apply for the same.
In just the first year, the impact has already trickled to about 200 children. Charvi tells us that they have also received a positive response from the parents of the children. Government schools often are understaffed with the teacher- student ratio being skewed. The Eklavya team steps in with personalized attention and also addressed the needs of those children who might need counselling. The next milestone that Charvi has set for Eklavya is to reach 1000 children by end of 2016.
Charvi’s dream is to have multiple centres of Eklvaya to multiply the impact.
I hope to cater to more and more children and empower them to have a brighter future for themselves and their families. There is no doubt in my mind that it will help the nation grow.
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