Project Roshni to be extended to 18 schools in Ernakulam

Pilot project manages to overcome language barrier for migrant children

Updated - June 10, 2018 08:41 am IST

Published - June 09, 2018 11:18 pm IST - Kochi

A class under Project Roshini in progress at a school in Ernakulam district.

A class under Project Roshini in progress at a school in Ernakulam district.

Buoyed by the success of its ground-breaking pilot project to educate children of migrant workers, the district administration has now taken steps to expand the initiative, named Project Roshni, to 18 schools in the district from the present four.

The second phase of the project, which boldly experimented with ways to overcome the language barrier confronting the children, mostly from Bihar, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Assam and Nepal, is set to get under way by the end of this month – June 25, in all likelihood.

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) which is collaborating in the project with sourcing, training and deploying volunteers as ‘mentors’ to the children is in the process of recruiting them. District Collector K. Mohammed Y. Safirulla said the pilot project run in Government High School, Binanipuram, Union Lower Primary School, Thrikkanarvattam, Government Lower Primary School, Ponnurunni, and Government Upper Primary School, Kandanthara, showed “significant progress in the learning outcome” of the migrant children.

Mostly from humble backgrounds and with little support from their low-wage earning parents engaged as manual workers in various sectors in Kerala, 140-odd children part of the pilot phase of the project had the odds up against them. With their native tongue different from the medium of instruction (Malayalam) in these schools, getting around the language barrier to communicate with the children and to initiate them into the world of letters was an uphill task.

Code-switching

It was there that a pedagogical experiment by Jayasree Kulakkunnath, a teacher at the GHS Binanipuram and now academic coordinator of Roshni, came handy. “Our school has a vast number of children of migrant workers and since I was faced with this problem, I had done some research and adopted a methodology to get across to these children,” said Ms. Jayasree, who had sought the help of educationist K.N. Anandan.

“Code-switching was the strategy that was adopted. It means the speaker alternates between two or more languages or language varieties, including graphic (visual) learning, in the context of a single conversation,” said Dr. Anandan, a believer in the Chomskyan dictum that humans have an innate sense of language.

Getting volunteers

Recruiting volunteers who are multilingual and capable of conversing alternating between the students’ native tongue, Malayalam, English and visual expressions to convey a fixed idea was a tough task, but that could be achieved, pointed out C.K. Prakash, former deputy collector and general coordinator of the project.

BPCL-Kochi Refinery chipped in with the funds needed to roll out the project. “We wanted to bring the children to schools early in the day for interactive sessions with the volunteers and a breakfast scheme catalysed it, helping bring down absenteeism,” said Mr. Safirulla. Schools with at least 20 migrant children were selected for the pilot and when expanded to 18 schools, it would be a socio-cultural bridge for about 700 of the children who would otherwise have no education or social integration, he said.

Integrated approach

The approach is systematic, with the second phase of the programme aiming at an integrated approach to also incorporate study of subjects and not just the language. “An evaluation conducted revealed that the pilot project succeeded in nurturing the language skills of these children,” said Mr. Safirulla.

Ms. Jayasree said the focus on children below the age of 12 would continue to be language skills development, and the approach towards elderly children would be to help them identify and prune their art and crafts skills. An integrated approach would be taken to also initiate them to the sciences, history and the like, she added.

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