Improving educational opportunities for the most disadvantaged children in tribal and rural village settings
Seva Mandir has been operating Learning Camps since 2001. The purpose of these residential camps is to enable 200 children between the ages of 6-12 years who do not attend formal schooling to attend these camps in order to learn to read and write independently and with comprehension. Since 2001, three camps of 60 days each have been conducted every year, with each child being encouraged to attend all three camps. The camps take place on the outskirts of Udaipur and children are collected from their homes by organised transport, taken to the camps and once they are over, they are taken back to their familial villages.
The children participating in the camp come from poor villages in remote parts of the province which are largely inhabited by tribal people. Some children may have access to a school but many do not attend for reasons such as responsibility for domestic chores, migration or because the poor quality of education in government schools means that their parents feel there is little value in their attendance. For those who do attend government schools, attendance is low and dropout rates are high. Seva Mandir’s Learning Camps provide such children with an opportunity to acquire the basic skills of reading and writing through intensive learning. In the past the camps have been successful in ensuring that children become fully literate, and inspired parents to enrol their children in schools afterwards.
Children are divided into small groups depending on their ability and each group is assigned to one teacher. At the end of the camp they are tested and their final level of learning determined. After attending 3 such camps in a year the children should be at the highest level possible, allowing them to enrol in a formal school at 5th or 6th grade level. The main subjects taught in the camp are Hindi and mathematics and alongside these there are sessions on health, hygiene, environment, art and theatre to encourage well-rounded development of the children. Outdoor sports activities are organised every afternoon and there are cultural programmes during the evening.
The philosophy inspiring this approach is that each child is an intelligent being and learns best when allowed to explore, think and reason for themselves. Seva Mandir seeks to build on the child’s existing knowledge and aptitude for learning, and the camps are structured in a way that allows for children to work both individually and in groups to read, write, speak and reason on their own.
The difference a learning camp can make
After the completion of all of the previous Learning Camps, contact has been maintained with students. Since the inception of the camps, 57% of children who had never been enrolled in regular school before, were enrolled after attending a learning camp. The skills benefit not only the children but their families and the villages in which they live. Further educational opportunities present themselves, and the children are far more likely to go onto a better job that will help to improve their standard of living. The teachers chosen are known for their enthusiasm and knowledge and love of education.
Going forward, Seva Mandir also plans to award scholarships to children who after completion of the Learning Camps, enrol and consistently attend a regular school. Since many children are unable to attend school due to economic constraints, it is hoped that once they have been prepared for schooling thanks to the learning camps, a financial incentive will sufficiently motivate the children and their parents in sending and retaining the child in a regular school where the fundamentals acquired at the Learning Camps can be built upon.
Click here to read a recent report published in an Indian newspaper and written by Pamela Philipose, a trustee of Seva Mandir, following her visit to the Learning Camp in Koya, a small village close to Udaipur.
>>> Return to Projects