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 education for children who live in remote rural hamlets who otherwise might not have access to any sort of quality education. The schools are aimed at children aged 6 to 14 and provide a strong foundation in language and mathematical skills, as well as preparing pupils for future enrolment in formal schools.
The Rural Bridge Schools provide a solid educational base, keeping in mind the children’s context. Each school typically has 25-30 pupils. Most Shiksha Kendras are run by one teacher, but schools which have larger numbers of pupils will have several instructors, providing a pupil-teacher ratio of 30:1. Almost half of the pupils are girls, quite an achievement in an area where traditionally girls were not educated.
Teachers are selected from the local area, meaning that they speak the same dialect as the children, and they are trained by Seva Mandir. Seva Mandir recruits as many women teachers as possible, which helps inspire girls with concrete proof of what they could achieve.
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, 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 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 educational level of the children, the quality of education provided at the Rural Bridge Schools, greater pupil retention, and a vastly improved success rate of the students who 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. Basic English is also taught.
Research shows that pupils in Shiksha Kendras tend to perform better than their peers in government schools. A recent comparison shows that, whereas government pupils in grades 4 and 5 scored 30% in Hindi, 25% in maths and 5% in English, children from he highest level of the Shiksha Kendras scored on average 60%, 56% and 43% respectively.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The actual running of schools is monitored closely and the children are evaluated twice a year. Seva Mandir makes regular checks to ensure that all necessary materials and supplies are available. All teachers receive full training in teaching academic subjects and management of the schools to ensure that they can deliver quality education. A management system has been implemented that promotes enthusiasm for teaching and creates an ethos of accountability, ensuring that the bridge schools are run efficiently and successfully. Three time- and date-stamped photos of teachers and children are taken daily (and checked regularly) to ensure that schools run according to schedule. To further deepen the relationship between the Shiksha Kendras and the children’s parents, Parent-Teacher meetings are organised once every two to three months so that parents can follow their child’s progress and have discussions with the teacher.
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