Kalanjiyam education program is supporting 800+ children going to rural schools in Maduranthakam block of Kancheepuram district in Tamil Nadu. A primary focus is on strengthening children’s education in elementary school, by providing education aid for children from very poor families and supporting the local schools by providing para teachers. The schools where the programs are implemented are multi-grade classrooms with one or two teachers to teach all the subjects. The para-teachers placed by the project are making a tremendous difference in supporting the teachers to ensure school regularity and that children are learning effectively in the classroom.
Vaishnavi, studying in 5th standard in the one of the project supported schools reports: ‘I had lot of difficulty reading in Tamil and barely could read my text books. Due to this I did not like to study and felt ashamed in the class room. I often avoided coming to school. When the Kalanjiyam appointed aunty started coming to my school, she identified the children who were not coming to school regularly. She came to my home and spoke to my mother. I started opening up to aunty. She started spending time with me in school and many times after school, to teach me to read in Tamil. Slowly, I was able to read more and more, and now I am able to read Tamil fluently. I don’t feel afraid to come to school now. I am happy that I can read and also able to focus on my lessons. I am enjoying doing math more than other subjects. Our school teacher is also happy with me now. I am glad that aunty came to my school and helped me. ‘
Pavithra studies in 5th standard. She is a good student. Her father passed away two years ago due to a sudden illness. She has a sister in 7th standard. Her mother has to do wage labor to support their family. However the money she makes is not sufficient.
Pavithra says ‘I like to study, but when my father passed away my mother could not educate both of us. We found out about Kalanjiyam and approached them for support. It is only through this support, we are able to buy uniform, bag, notes and shoes etc to go to school. Besides this they also encourage and support me in my education. I am happy and able to continue to study well.
Sumathi, mother of Pavithra says ‘When my husband died, I was worried about how I would educate my two daughters; I was not sure I would be able to support their studies. I used to feel very frustrated seeing other children going to school. I could not even buy the simple things like note books, pencil, bag, etc. for even one of my children. Once I approached Kalanjiyam for support, they agreed to help me and my daughter. Since the last two years, I have been able to get education aid through Kalanjiyam. This has been a stepping stone and allowed me to believe that my daughter’s future will be better than mine. I am very thankful for the support .’
One of the key issues facing the rural school system in the state of Tamil Nadu is the alarming rate of student dropouts in government middle and high schools. Kalanjiyam recognized early on that an important step was to strengthen the primary education system by supporting the local Panchayat schools.
Kalanjiyam currently works with Panchayat schools to implement the Kalanjiyam model programs aimed at creating an enabling school environment, supporting teachers to provide quality education, educating parents on health and hygiene, so more and more children enroll and stay in school through college. The focus this year is to help their adopted schools increase student retention in higher secondary schools
Providing a healthy school environment where learning can happen: Students are provided with notebooks and school supplies. Amenities such as fans, lights, drinking water and working toilets are provided. Kalanjiyam trains local staff called para-teachers to help the appointed school teachers. They act as liaisons between teachers and parents and help children with homework. Extra curricular activities such as music, art, yoga, sports and interactive learning through computers help engage children in school.
Provide basic Health care: To encourage school attendance, medical and dental camps are setup annually to provide free health checkups. This helps children stay healthy and attend school regularly. Nutritional supplements, fresh fruit is provided to some schools to prevent malnutrition in children
Educational Aid: Scholarships are given to students who secure more than 80% marks in 10th standard board exams to complete schooling and pursue higher education, college or other professional courses.
Feedback from coolie workers from project villages: ‘My husband is a coolie worker. In the previous years, my son never used to study after coming home though I would ask him to study. Now after project has come he voluntarily takes his books and studies. He now wears slippers everyday and goes to school.’
‘Three teachers could not manage, due to the high school strength. It is very useful to have one para-teacher from project. My son did not know to write a phone number before. Now he is doing arithmetic well and able to read the paper, We thank the project for making this possible.’
Students Feedback: ‘I used to take leave for 2 days a week. But after project aunty / para teacher has come, she encourages students who do not take leave by giving incentive like note, pen, pencil, etc. Nobody takes leave unnecessarily now in our school.’ ‘We now have toilets and drinking water in our school; before we had to run home or go to the fields. The girls now have private toilet and most of all the toilets are clean!.’
Teachers feedback: ‘We thank the project for providing para-teachers for our school in the last three years to assist our teachers. We depend on this support to make sure that our children are coming to school and learning as they are supposed to be.’ ‘The extra-curricular programs have a lot of impact on the children and this is main reason for the increased regularity among our school children.’ ‘The most popular program is the computer education that is introduced by the project, which is not available in primary schools. We teachers are also using this to our advantage and developing our skills on using computers in general and to aid in teaching.’
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