Going to School Fund

Going to School creates design-driven stories to teach India's poorest children skills at school. We're an award-winning nonprofit trust with a 10-year track record of inspiring millions of children in India to stay in school, learn skills, use their education to transform their lives and create their own opportunities. Our journey began in 2003 when we created Going to School in India, a children's book that tells 25 stories of what school can be, from going to school in a tent in a desert to going to school in the dark with solar lanterns. We made the book into a pioneering TV series that aired on India's leading television networks reaching 65 million children. Our next series, Girl Stars...
Dec 15, 2014

Teaching 1 million children to read

We want to teach 1.2 million children how to read in their own language Children grow up speaking a tribal language at home & their first day of school is in Hindi This means not only is the first day of school scary, but that millions of children in Jharkhand start school behind other kids in the country, leading to high drop out rates, migration and a lifetime of poverty.

We want to change that. We want to teach a generation of children how to read in their own language.
Going to School will design 20+ storycards. They will be written in 9 tribal languages, printed en masse and placed in 38,000 Anganwadi kits. We’ll use radio to tell the stories and mobilise storytellers in villages across the state. So every week, a storyteller will go to the Anganwadi to read a story to start a story revolution for children. Right now children do not learn how to read in pre-schools, we’re about to change that.

What the data says One of the reasons for high dropout rate of children from tribal families in Grade 1 and 2 is because of the language problem. The dropout rate of tribal children at the primary school level in the State is 30% compared to 21% for other students [Selected Educational Statistics of Government of India]. There is empirical evidence to show that children learn better in their home language in primary classes. A good foundation enables children to do well in other languages like Hindi and English. After the initial years of instruction in their own language, children can transit to instruction in Hindi, English or other languages. The Jharkhand state government has granted nine tribal languages the status of second official language: Santhali, Oraon, Mundari, Ho, Kurukh, Sadri, Kortha, Panch Pargania and Kurmali. Along with Urdu, Bengali and Oriya, there are now 12 tribal and regional languages, which have been recognized as second official language in Jharkhand.

Anganwadis are India’s pre-schools, where children should ideally be learning how to read so they can go to school. Unfortunately, in Jharkhand (and other states across India), this is not yet the case. The Department of Social Welfare, Government of Jharkhand, sees Anganwadis as pre-schools or nursery schools and they’d like to change the way children access these services, to make them ‘mini’ schools.

At the moment, children do not learn how to read in their own language and turn up to school for the first day that is always in another language other than their own: Hindi.
Our storycards will be bi-lingual: a tribal language + Hindi.
1.2 million children will learn how to read for the first time in their own language, building the bridge from local languages to the language of education in Jharkhand: Hindi, and the fundamental right and ability to read.

Each story card will have a compelling illustration, an image story on one side - so when the storyteller reads the story children can see the image and a short paragraph story on the back. The paragraph stories in 12 languages will explore founding concepts of language, maths, science, health, forest sustainability, clean water, sustainable farming, grandparents and tribal heritage, ethics, concepts of right and wrong, and values in today’s ever changing world all told though a story.

Our goal is to teach 1.2 million children how to read in their own language, so that their first day at school is full of stories they can read and feel inspired. 

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Dec 3, 2014

Let the games begin

Neeru
Neeru

People must understand that girls should be allowed to play just like boys. Games have to be part of school, Im going to make sure games become part of our timetable again. Neeru, age 15

Bettiah, West Champaran, 3.22 pm

Neeru and her friends can’t wait for the last bell to ring. Their legs are stiff from sitting in the same position for over two hours. Neeru has been looking at the last postcard her brother sent her. It’s a photograph of him playing football with his friends at his boarding school. She looks at field outside her classroom. Their school had a beautiful field within its compound but grass and weeds had grown making it impossible to play. The shed in which all the games equipment was stored was home to cobwebs and creepy-crawlies. The footballs were punctured and the cricket bats chipped and broken.

The field had once held two football nets and a cricket pitch but ever since the games teacher left there was no one to teach games. Since they were in a girls’school, they could only have a female games teacher. There were no applicationsfrom women games teachers.

Neeru thought that no one realized how important games was. Playing was as important as studying, it made you strong. Neeru felt free when she used to run, like she was flying.

The last bell of the day rang cutting into Neeru’s thoughts. She passed the boys playing their usual game of cricket on the streets. For as long as she could remember they’d always played cricket just there. But today, she stopped and watched. None of them wore shoes. They had no equipment. Their cricket bat was a broad stick, their ball was a chewed tennis ball and their wicket was a three legged chair. If the ball hit a tree stump you were awarded four runs, if it broke a window, you got six runs. They did not have an umpire or a coach. They created, broke and judged their own rules. They were very happy.

Neeru realized she had spent six months being sad about a problem instead of solving it.

First, she would speak to the gardener and ask him to mow the school lawns. She did not know who the gardener was, she had to find him. Then she would speak to her friends and together they would take an appointment with the principal and request her to allow them to play after school hours. Once they start playing after school hours, she was hoping that the principal would begin to notice how good they were and then the next step would be to speak to her about including games in their curriculum next year. Yes, she would make something out of nothing, just like the boys playing cricket.

Neeru turned back to see the ball sailing through the air and crashing into someone’s window shortly followed by jubilant cries from the winning team. Maybe she would become games teacher one day. There were doctors in the town, but no games teacher and that was who her school needed most right now, and who girls would need later to be able to play.

When asked what would you like to learn at school that you don’t yet, 59% of girls said overwhelmingly: NCC games. Games win. The World Economic Forum cites a healthy diet + exercise as one of the 10 skills you should leave high school with be work-ready, knowing how to be healthy, exercise and eat properly is imperative to have enough energy to work.

When we asked girls how they spent their time after school, 78% said studying [though we know realistically with transport and family demands they don’t have this much time], 15% said household work [while only 9% of boys said they help at home] and playing, sports, only received 5% for girls, and 9% for boys.

Giving girls space and time to play at school is imperative - when you exercise your body you open your mind, and in organized sports you learn other skills - team work, leadership, communication and negotiation - imperative life skills. Longer term, if there is NCC games in your school and you complete the tasks to receive a certificate, you get extra marks when you are applying to be a police officer, in the railways, army or police force.

Neeru is inquisitive, a problem-solver and is taking initiative to bring games to her school for girls. Neeru identified that her social connections can help her achieve her goal. 97% of girls in our program are curious about new things that can happen in and around them and once they are curious, the next step is finding out how to make that ‘new idea’a reality in your school.

Sep 17, 2014

To get married or become an entrepreneur

Alisha
Alisha

“I am determined to the make the world safe for women and girls, that’s what drives me - we can’t live in a world that’s not safe for girls, we just can’t.” Alisha, age 15

Patna, 8:07 a.m.

Alishas father pulls on his uniform looking for his rickshaw keys. His ismomentarily stalled by a pair of soft palms clasping his worn hands to request, insist,Hurry, well be late Papa, I have to interview an entrepreneur to make a newspaper at school.

Mr. Khan smiles. Alisha is excited to go to school on Saturday. Hes given up his morning auto-run to take her to meet Ochu, a sweetshop owner. Alisha wants to interview him, and he didnt want to her to go alone. Hell lose RS 1,500 today by not working. That worries him. It will cut into his savings. Hes been saving for two yearssince the day Alisha turned 13. There will be a wedding reception. He will apply for a personal loan this afternoon, after dropping Alisha to school. Hell mortgage his rickshaw, hundreds of people will have a feast, Alisha a new sari, her groom, surrounded by laughing friends and family, and he, a proud father watching.

Alishawill have to stop school of course. He cant afford to send her next year. Higher secondary school is intermediate college - the fees are higher, the prices of books increasing - her uniform is too small, her shoes too - she wants to pay for extra classes to be able to study for the civil services exam. Mr. Khan frowns thinkingabout her plans. Shes always wanted to become a police officer. Mr. Khan and his wife were shocked when she told them this: a young woman policeofficer, who had ever seen that? Theres no way he would allow Alisha to wear those clothes and risk her life like that. But Alishas was determined she told him that she wanted to show the world that girls could become anything they wanted, especially a police officer who would ensure that other girls like her were safe. Mr. Khan loved his daughter, but what could he do. She had turned 15 last year, and people had already begun to talk at her fathers inability to find her a suitable groom.

I am ready and you are not,she breaks into his thoughts, hurrying down the stairs he climbs into his rickshaw. Alisha sits in the back, wearing her her school uniform, bag on her lap, a press card with her name pinned to her dupatta, and a smile. Her in-laws probably wont let her go back to school. He drives to Ochus sweet shop.

Alisha is tapping her foot, the only sign of her ebbing patience. She and her father had been waiting for over an hour at their table at Sadhu Hotel. Ochu, the sweet shop owner was giving them odd shoulder raising motions. The girl had initially annoyed him with her questions, driving away customers, but now he was curious - why was she here? She had said that he was a good entrepreneur to interview and that she wanted to interview him for her newspaper. He wondered who an entrepreneur was and why he was a good one as he weighed out half a kilo of his famous kala jamun to the customer before him.

It was afternoonby the time Ochu had made a receipt for his last customer, swatted the flies away from his halwa and jalebis, wiped his counter clean and made his way to the waiting girl and her father.

An entrepreneur is a problem solverAlisha explains, You are the best of all entrepreneurs because you are solving a problem with a business. Ochus face asks, what problem am I solving? You provide food at very reasonable prices to hungry people dont you? Alisha answers at speed. Students like me come to you, the rickshaw puller comes to you, my father comes to you when we have guests at home, and Ive even seen the headmaster stop by for your samosa after school. So, you see youre solving one problem already. Of hunger. Then, you pay Dinesh-bhai to sweep the floors and clean the utensils, you pay Ila-didi to help you make the samosas in the morning and you pay Geeta and Zulfi to hand out plates of food to your customers. Youve built a team and youre employing three women! You started a business that solves problems that makes you an entrepreneur- a problem solving hero.

As he watched Alisha skip away, her arm locked in her fathers, Ochus face was glowing.She called him a hero.

Mr. Khan had sat quietly and watched his daughter all morning. His earlier worries about not making enough money today or reaching the bank on time disappeared. He had watchedAlishas intelligent questions, the kindness with she explained her project to the irritated shop owner, and finally how her words and actions had changed Ochu from a grumpy man to melting sweetie.He started to see her in a khaki uniform, doing her best to make her country a safer and better place, rather than silent in a marriage hall.

Alisha chatted at speed as she clung on to his arm and they walked her to school. As they approached the school gate, she stopped and looked up to him, Papa you now how I knew who was an entrepreneur? I thought of everything you do and told him.

Ten minutes later Mr. Khan walked into the bank. The loan officer was just about to clear his desk.  Mr. Khan placed all his documents on the table, and then said, I need to mortgage my rickshaw for my daughters education loan.

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