Improving educational opportunities for the most disadvantaged children in tribal and rural village settings
Seva Mandir has been operating Rural Bridge Schools – or Shiksha Kendras as they are known in Hindi – since the beginning of the 1990s and the purpose of these schools is to provide a quality educational opportunity for children who live in remote rural hamlets who otherwise may not have access to any sort of quality education. The schools are aimed at children between the ages of 6 to 14 and provide an education equivalent to up to Grade 3, which includes a strong foundation in language and mathematical skills as well as preparing pupils for future enrolment in formal schools. 185 schools have already been set up and Seva Mandir wants to set up 15 more schools in communities that have no other access to primary education.
The Rural Bridge Schools provide a solid educational base keeping in mind the children’s context. The schools run for at least 22 days a month for a minimum of eight pupils. Upon enrolment children are assessed and split into three levels according to their abilities and are provided with all of the materials and supplies required for learning. The children are taught by highly competent and specially trained teachers that can provide the children with a high level of education with a strong foundation in language and mathematics. A certification course, which runs in conjunction with the Rural Bridge Schools and training sessions throughout the year provide the teachers with more knowledge and better methods of teaching, while the abilities of the teachers are constantly evaluated throughout the year to ensure maximum success.
The schools are run in conjunction with remote communities who support the establishment of these education centres. The communities provide help in finding and preparing a suitable location with minimal rent for the school, and once the schools are up and running the communities seek to provide voluntary teaching assistants and caretakers. This approach ensures ownership of the projects and has encourages villagers and parents alike to reconsider the value of an education for their children.
The difference Rural Bridge Schools make
The effective and successful establishment of these schools has led to an overall increase in the education level of the children, the quality of education provided at the Rural Bridge Schools, greater enrolment retention, and a vastly improved success rate of the students that continue on to formal education centres. When the children complete the highest level, they are able to read and write with comprehension and have a fundamental grounding in language and mathematical skills.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The actual running of schools is monitored closely and the children are evaluated twice a year and Seva Mandir makes regular checks to ensure that all necessary materials and supplies are available. Teachers only collect their salary if they attend on 22 days per month; if they attend more than that they are awarded a bonus. They too are regularly evaluated, training and capacity building sessions are held for teachers to continually build on their knowledge and skills. During those sessions their abilities and success are evaluated.
Seva Mandir also carries out on-going monitoring and evaluation by looking at the retention levels of the students in each school, the percentage of child literacy in the rural villages where the schools are operating versus those where they are not presently operating; the percentage of children who go on to enrol at a formal school after achieving the highest of the three levels at the Rural Bridge Schools, as well as their success at the formal school. So far, results have been extremely positive.
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