An attempt to close the knowledge gap experienced by kids from weaker sections in schools in Patna
The passage of the Right to Education Act, 2009, made education free and compulsory for all children aged six to 14 years. While there has been a progressive shift in people’s minds, especially those belonging to the society’s weaker and marginalised sections, about the necessity of education, the quality of education imparted at most government-run schools have left most parents anxious and unsatisfied.
They complain that in most cases, the knowledge imparting system was too mundane and namesake with teachers often disinterested in the job at hand. Infrastructure is another major impediment with overcrowded classes and lack of enough instructors.
In this scenario, a non-profit outfit — Nidan — has come forward to fill in this yawning gap. The organization has been working extensively with people employed in urban unorganised sectors in Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Delhi.
“Currently, one of our most engaging projects is to facilitate the provision of quality education to the children of various slums in Patna,” says Ratnish Verma, who heads Nidan’s operations in Bihar.
Nidan divides the target group of various children into Shala Poorv (pre-primary), Shala Arambh (Classes I to III), Shala Madhya (Classes IV and V) and Shala Samooh (classes VI to VIII) slots. This was done to cater to the specific requirements of each group.
“Often in government schools, children are made to sit in a classroom which has a mixed batch of students of Classes I to IV because there are not many teachers available for each class. This leads to a gross confusion in ‘what to teach to whom.’ Also, managing a huge classroom makes only the choicest few students, who pick up fast, gain the bulk of what is being taught. Having been left behind for long sustained days, slowly the kids begin to lose interest in studies and drop out of school,” reflects Rashmi Lakra, the head of the education project under Nidan.
Neelmani Devi, a vegetable seller and a mother of five, says, “It is better that Ramesh (her third child) sits with me and learns how to tackle customers than waste his time in school doing nothing.” Ramesh dropped out of school after Class III. He cannot recognise alphabets and letters and one wonders how he was promoted from his previous classes all the while.
“Looking at the alarming rates of drop outs between Classes III and V, we figured out that lot needs to be done to build the effective gap between classroom teaching and students’ learning. So in the various shalas, we basically aim to cater to the lack of knowledge gap among various kids by providing them with extra assistance and care, right from the beginning. For this, we began with ensuring that small children enrol themselves in government schools early on and simultaneously in helping the older kids retain their attendance in schools,” shares Ms. Lakra.
“Shala Poorv familiarises the children with the basics of language, numeracy and literacy skills. Once that happens, we help them to enrol in government schools. At Shala Arambh, Shala Madhya and Shala Samooh, we work rigorously to ensure that the children left behind in the process of learning are given adequate inputs to pick up pace with their other classmates,” Bhola Prasad, another associate with the projects, says.