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 children aged 6-12 years who do not attend formal schooling to learn to read, write and do sums 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.
The children participating in the camps 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 for work or because the poor quality of education in government schools means that their parents feel there is little value in sending them. 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, writing and arithmetic through intensive learning.
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 three 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 English, computers, 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 him or herself. 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 teachers are chosen for their enthusiasm and knowledge and love of education and are from the same areas as their pupils, so speak the same dialect as their charges.
The difference a learning camp can make
Since 2002, nearly 5,000 children from rural and tribal villages in southern Rajasthan have attended the Residential Learning Camps. Children who attend three camps show a significant increase in literacy and educational levels, with many achieving the highest grade during their final camp. Despite their lack of education before the camp, the majority of pupils go on to enrol in government schools.
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.
>>> Return to Projects