The Mobile Education Programme is an attempt to provide children of migrants last mile quality education
Sagar, 7, a resident of Nalla Camp in Delhi is excited as he sees the bright yellow bus coming towards him. He rushes to call his friends – most belonging to the same age group and migrant community– who will soon board the bus consisting of teachers, study material and a lot of hope. As the bus stops, Sagar and his friends eagerly get into it. Their destination is a nearby open area where they will be taught under the Mobile Education Programme (MEP).
Nalla Camp near Mahipalpur was earlier a settlement of poor snake charmers who migrated from different parts of the country. With passage of time and strict enforcement of animal laws, the residents changed their occupation and engaged themselves in other jobs such as domestic work. What did not change, however, was their impoverished lifestyle. The average number children in most families here is three to six. The parents themselves are illiterate or first generation learners; all this pushing education way down on their list of priorities.
The mobile educators start with identifying underprivileged children from the remotest areas who have either dropped out of schools or have never been to one. The reasons for dropping out are generally linked to livelihood options which force the parents to migrate to other states.
This is followed by a test which helps to assess the learning abilities of the children, after which classes begin in full swing. The education project has 15 locations across the Capital, Nalla Camp being one of them. The other locations include Bengali Camp, Sunder Nursery, Chandni Chowk, INA, Sadar Bazaar and Jama Masjid. In Uttarakhand, the project is being implemented in the districts of Haridwar and Rudrapur in four locations. The total outreach of the programme is around 500 children in Delhi and Uttarakhand.
The MEP is being implemented by Butterflies, an organisation working with vulnerable children. Inaugurated in the year 2008, the programme has also collaborated with the state education departments of Delhi and Uttarakhand.
The subjects taught are Hindi, English and mathematics. The syllabus, though developed on the lines of NCERT guidelines, is also sometimes tailored as per the local context. The teachers draft lesson plans for a period of 15 days where they also record the performance and presence of students. The student to teacher ratio in the MEP is 1:20.
The performance of the students is also assessed time to time through tests and exams. The students have weekly tests, monthly tests and quarterly exams. These help to assess their strengths and shortcomings. They are provided with books, note books and other stationery items. The children are taken for excursions and given regular access to health facilities.
For any educational institution, the community which it works is an important stakeholder. To ensure the participation of the community and strengthen links with it, regular meetings are arranged with parents and other members of the community. This, the volunteers claim, has boosted the enrolment especially among the girls who earlier used to drop out of schools to baby-sit their younger siblings.
Once the programme is completed, MEP volunteers make regular visits to the children's homes for the next few months. This is done to make sure they have been enrolled in regular schools and to check if they are facing any problems in learning in those schools.