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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