Unique education project has brought marginalised children to the mainstream, empowered them to demand good education

Children from marginalised families living in rickety houses in the dusty lanes of backward villages of Mewat region in Rajasthan are experiencing a transformation in the learning environment around them. A unique education project has brought them to the mainstream and empowered them to demand good quality education.

Role model

The Kaman block of Bharatpur district has emerged as a role model of high quality education with the active participation of all stakeholders including students, teachers, parents and the community at large, following an intervention by the Society for All Round Development (SARD) through its project.

The project is operative in as many as 25 villages of Kaman block, directly benefiting about 1,200 children studying in government schools and covering both curriculum and non-curriculum activities.

Inclusive education

It has succeeded in promoting inclusive education and developed child-friendly and responsive schools.

The SARD is supported by international group Save the Children in implementing the project. Its unique aspect is establishment of three child rights groups in all the villages, enabling the students to demand equal access to education without discrimination and ensuring active participation of parents and community members in the functioning of schools and other extension programmes.

SARD programme officer (education) in Delhi Sachin Sahu, who visited the villages covered by the project over the weekend, said the three child rights groups are the Baal Mandal (consisting of children aged below 18 years) Child Protection Committee (comprising adult and youth members) and Baal Samiti (comprising two children from each village).

Class IX student Mukesh Kumar Singh,14, is the Baal Mandal chairman at the Government Senior Secondary Sanskrit School in Indroli village of Chicharwadi panchayat. The outspoken boy is all praise for SARD for taking the initiative and says he regularly listens to all the problems of the children and tries his best to resolve them.

“We organise rallies to generate awareness in our village. I approached the BDO [Block Development Officer] saheb for construction of a proper walkway to our school and the installation of a hand-pump. I also got money sanctioned for construction of a [boundary] wall at the pond adjacent to the school building,” said Mukesh.

Sustained efforts of Mukesh and his colleagues in Baal Mandal have converted Indroli into a model village. Today, it is free of child labour, child marriage, tobacco consumption by students and school dropouts.

Baal Mandal secretary Tasleem Hussain spoke of the children’s efforts to get rid of the despicable practice of child labour.

“Children used to work in the small kirana shops in our village. We convinced the parents to send the children to school rather to work. Today, there is not a single child who is out of school here,” she said.

Marriage stopped

Tasleem’s younger sister Asleem is an identical “social reformer.” She recently stopped the marriage of her minor friend by first trying to convince the parents and later informing her class teachers and other village elders.

“My friend’s parents were not willing to listen to me. I sent my teacher and others to her home. When they explained the consequences of child marriage, her parents realised their mistake and cancelled the marriage,” she said with a chuckle.

Similar actions for ensuring that each child gets quality education have been taken in Ladlaka village of Bilag panchayat, situated eight km away from Indroli.

Imam roped in

The SARD field officer in Deeg, Mukesh Kaushik, took the novel initiative of involving local Imam Mohammed Ilyas in the drive in view of the clout and respect he enjoys.

As a result of the Imam taking interest in modern education, every single student who comes to his madrasa also studies in the local government school. Besides, the Imam regularly makes announcements of socially relevant messages from the mosque loudspeaker.

The Child Protection Committee established at Ladlaka actively takes up educational issues with government authorities. Panel member Ishab Khan said there were only two teachers in the Government Senior Secondary School, where 231 students are enrolled. One of them, who is differently abled, does not take classes regularly. The committee has raised the issue several times and even locked the school’s main gate twice during its agitation. Its members pointed out that the matter was taken up with local politicians, while children who wished to pursue studies seriously were going to the Kaman block headquarters to attend school. They hope their efforts will bear fruit soon.

Locals sensitised

The three groups have been active in the region for the past three years. Having created a favourable atmosphere for education, the project has sensitised the local populace, largely comprising Meo Muslims, to the importance of imparting education to children.

Permanent impact

Mr. Sahu affirmed that the positive trend of drop-out students, rescued child labourers, out-of-school children and girls joining the schools in Kaman block indicates that the transformation has made a permanent and indelible impact on the rural society: “On a more important note, the child rights bodies have brought about a change in the attitude of society towards children.”