How PRADAN’s Development Apprenticeship Programmes seeks to transform rural lives 

PRADAN’s Development Apprenticeship Programme helps college students work at the grassroots level to solve local issues

December 24, 2022 12:09 pm | Updated 03:23 pm IST

 Since 1990, PRADAN has enabled youths to work with marginalised families across remote villages in India.

 Since 1990, PRADAN has enabled youths to work with marginalised families across remote villages in India. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When Barsha Mishra chose to live with a family in interior Jharkhand, she realised the privileges of her urban life. “The challenges of living frugally and staying away from family and friends was an eye-opener. Detached from the mainstream, I learnt to apply myself to local problems and address contextual issues,” she says.

Today, a confident and aware Barsha works as a team coordinator at Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN) to bring in more youngsters for the Development Apprenticeship Programme (DAP) that she undertook 13 years ago, as a Social Science student at Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

She is among the 5,000 students trained in the last four decades to strengthen the ability of the rural poor to earn better. Since 1990, PRADAN, a national support organisation to the government’s flagship rural development programmes, has enabled youngsters from various academic fields such as Management, Engineering or Agriculture to Culture, History and Politics to work with 9,63,324 marginalised families across 9,127 remote villages of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal.

Information empowerment

Back in 1983, Deep Joshi and Vijay Mahajan started PRADAN with the conviction that rural India’s endemic poverty could be solved if educated youngsters worked with weaker communities to empower them with the information required to improve their lives.

Working at the grassroots ...

Working at the grassroots ... | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The idea, over the years, has inspired a movement of young people passionate about tackling the pressing problems in villages, as PRADAN played a major role in developing programmes such as the as Integrated Rural Development Programme, Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana and National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM).

“Giving back to society can be a fulfilling and viable vocation for educated youngsters. We groom them to work at the grassroots level and be empathetic towards the poor, something that needs to be at the forefront of the education system,” says Narendranath Damodaran, Integrator at PRADAN.

“We try to impact the lives of villagers; it requires a lot of mental resilience,” says Arnab Mitra, who was a PRADAN apprentice in 2014, working and coordinating with 1,200 women SHGs in Chattisgarh. “It helped me learn skills crucial to the social sector; to identify the gaps and facilitate existing government programmes to reach and benefit the rural poor. PRADAN is like an activist helping in the last-mile contact with a structured intervention.”

“We look at students who have the natural capability to work systematically towards a solution as a team and understand how the local governance functions,” says Damodaran, “as this is the social innovation generation that can bring in skills and systems to help women, families and communities gain confidence and take charge of their own lives.”

Bridging the gap between the urban and the rural

Bridging the gap between the urban and the rural | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“India is overwhelmingly poor and the poverty is stark. If we pull together, it is possible to continue to work for change that is sustainable and self-perpetuating,” believes Mitra, who, like many of his colleagues, is working to bridge the disconnect between the elites and the weakest, and make the marginalised aware of their entitlements as citizens, develop their own skills and initiatives and build a livelihood.

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How it works
PRADAN sources talent from 45 reputed academic partner institutions. Currently, it is also in talks with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and Madurai Institute of Social Sciences; NIT Bengaluru and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad.
Two batches of 60 students are selected every year for the 12-month programme. The first week involves induction, followed by three months of immersion, i.e, learning-by-seeing while staying with a local family. The next eight months are for learning-by-doing and for perspective-building. Selected students get a stipend and, on completion, are offered an executive role in PRADAN.
How it helps
Young learners gain knowledge from practice through interaction with colleagues and others engaged in similar work. Working directly at the grassroots level gives them an understanding of the challenges, hardships, and enjoyment of contributing to improving lives. The field immersion of apprentices takes place in rural areas, while classroom sessions take place in Pradan’s campuses in Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.

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