Reach out to teach


What education does: Learning with a smile or learning to smile?

What education does: Learning with a smile or learning to smile?  

Thavalappatti is a small village in Attur taluk, Salem district. The village had no school until the Panchayat Union Primary School was built recently under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme. The ramp leading to the main hall is a feature that the local people take pride in as something unique to their village. Such schools started in the remotest parts of the country facilitate children to receive free and compulsory education. "All learn - all grow" is the motto.

If there are about 25 children in a locality with no school in their neighbourhood, SSA initiates the opening of an Education Guarantee Centre (EGS Centre) with sufficient infrastructure and basic facilities. Local volunteers are trained and the children are enrolled.

Quality education is aimed for at every level — reading, writing or interacting. Children are thus prepared for regular school where they can pursue higher education.

T.K. Ramachandran, IAS, State Project Director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, says, "While focussing on improving accessibility and quality education, it is also important to ensure that the children who begin schooling stay in school for eight years. This is where EGS Centres play a role. They provide primary education to children in the age group of 6-11 years. There are also the Alternative and Innovative Education Centres which cater to `out of school' children. Education volunteers, block resource persons and teacher educators are adequately trained before being assigned the job."

A significant and satisfying component of SSA is the Inclusive Education for the Disabled. Says Ramachandran, "When children with special needs are included in the mainstream, we notice that their cognitive and social skills improve due to the exposure and stimulus they get when they are with other children. This year, 69,000 special children have received education in Tamil Nadu under this programme."

For children in "balwadis" there is the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) project. Children who are two and above are taken care of by trained caregivers who inculcate in them the basics of health and hygiene.

Reach out to teach

With 10,000 new classrooms coming up this year, activity based learning (ABL) is the latest watchword. "The classrooms will be child-friendly," Ramachandran says. "The curriculum and methodologies have been formulated to make learning an enjoyable experience for children."

Computers are soon to make an appearance in these classrooms. To begin with, each Block is being provided with a set of computers, which will be accessible to all children in that region.

"Community participation in villages is a noteworthy aspect. People are so willing to help when it comes to building a school. There are instances where individuals have sponsored a major portion of the expenditure," says Ramachandran who believes that child labour has declined because of the "Education for All" initiative.

In the educationally backward regions of the State, residential hostels are to be built for girl children to ensure they continue schooling. Vocational training is a vital aspect of the syllabus for girls from Std. VI to VIII. They are provided with cycles to ensure mobility.

For SSA's vision is to see the children now in school successfully complete eight years of education by 2010. If that goal is reached, future milestones may not be too difficult.

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