Community-Based Community-Managed

West Bengal

Community-Based Community-Managed Learning Centres

Most children in Gangmuri Panchayat area of the Birbhum district in the northern part of West Bengal (India), are first generation learners, with none of their parents having attended any formal schooling. The area has mostly tribal population and the literacy rate among adults is below 20%. The villages are poorly connected to necessary infrastructure, such as primary health centres, railway stations and primary schools. Due to rough terrain and unfavourable climatic conditions the villagers also lack proper livelihood activities. There are many agricultural labourers, sometimes migrating to other areas in search of income.

Unfortunately, the above-described situation creates a precarious situation for the children when it comes to their education. If they go to school, many suffer from language problems since the medium of education in the schools is Bengali, while the language spoken at home is different. It is highly difficult for them to keep track with the progress of lessons being taught in school and many lose interest. Therefore, the dropout rate from school is particularly high in the project area. In addition, many children are not only required to help with domestic work, but are also made to engage in money earning activities to tide over poverty. Due to the low income of the families, preference is being given to work over studies, and the girls in particular are engaged in domestic cores instead of pursuing follow-up studies and homework given at school. Due to lack of awareness about the importance of education, some parents are ignorant about the value and importance of education and hence do not motivate and encourage their children to study.

The project and its objectives:

“Amar Pathshala” (my kindergarten), a joint initiative of “Swayambhar Nari”, an NGO working in the area, and SOCEO, is aimed at tackling this situation by establishing a number of “Community-Based Community-Managed Learning Centres” close to these remote and isolated hamlets.

 

  1. The primary objective is to bring all the children of school going age under the umbrella of the formal schools system:
  • The children will be offered supportive education programs in line with their school curriculum and will be enabled to follow and understand the school studies.
  • Emphasise will be given on languages, since the children’s mother tongue is different from English, Bengali and Hindi, thereby creating a bridge for the children to keep up with the curriculum in formal schools.
  • Many children are also weak in science and mathematics, why special coaching will be imparted to bridge this gap.

 

  1. Literacy Programs for Parents:

The uniqueness of Amar Pathshala is its adult literacy programs for the parents, especially the mothers, of the children of the centre. The education of the mother is crucial to the development of the children and Amar Pathshala is committed to work with the local women to strengthen it. If the parents know what education means and how they and their child will benefit of it in the long run, they encourage their children to go to school and study.

 

  1. Livelihood Trainings and Entrepreneurship

Amar Pathshala is conceived to facilitate the dissemination of essential knowledge, in a comprehensive manner, to these isolated villages. Therefore, livelihood trainings and entrepreneurial applications are an integral part of the centre. Amar Pathshala will enable the families to increase their income, which allows the parents to send their children to school regularly and to create a more financially stable home in order to support the child. The livelihood component of Amar Pathshala is also expected bring in long term sustainability to such community based learning centres.

 

The Model Centre:

 

With the above objectives in consideration, one model “Learning Centre” has been established in Swanihir village of Gangmuri Gram Panchayat in Rajnagar Block of Birbhum district. Before the inauguration of the centre, the training of (ToT) six teachers for the centres has taken place in April 2017. All teachers are belonging to the villages the centre serves. The centre is designed as a community run initiative with the villagers remaining involved in each activity. The centre has started its activities after inauguration in May 2017 with 50 children and their mothers as initial target learners.