Greetings from Seva Mandir!
With this letter, I am very happy to share with you some news and updates about the program you have been supporting. As you may be aware, by January 2010 ‘Send a child to school in India’ was fully funded by Global Giving. This project first appeared on Global Giving in November 2007 and since then we have received a lot of support for it from people like you. So many, many thanks for your generous support.
In three years we have generated a total of approximately Rs. 4,950,065 ($110,001 or £70,715) from donors through Global Giving (USA & UK) for the NFE (Non Formal Education) program. Every one of us here is truly grateful to all your support over the past three years and we hope to receive your continued help for this project in the years to come. Non Formal Education Centers or Shiksha Kendra (SK) are an ongoing initiative which reaches around 6,000 school children (6-14 years of age) in the remote and tribal areas of Southern Rajasthan, India, every year.
Enclosed with this letter is a detailed report to share what we have been able to do with the funds received from you, and other donors, in this program. Even though the project went live in November 2007 on Global Giving, the report enclosed provides you with the details from April 2007 to March 2010, in line with our financial year structure.
I would like to present a brief summary of the report for those who would like to refer the more detailed report at their leisure.
Some figures at a glance –
1. By the end of March 2010, we had 201 NFE centers with 219 instructors and 5,612 children enrolled.
2. We have also seen an encouraging increase in women instructors (from 7 to 16 in the 2007 – 2010 review period).
3. From April 2007 to March 2010, we saw about 3351 new children enrolled across all the 201 NFEs/SKs.
4. In past 3 years a total of 2460 students have graduated to government schools.
5. The retention level of NFEs/SKs graduates to the Government Schools is as high as 84%.
The situation of schooling -
In all the areas where Seva Mandir works, children have little access to quality education. The conditions of schooling in tribal areas is often one of severe neglect, with high rates of teacher absenteeism, use of poor and old pedagogical methods, lack of learning materials, inadequate infrastructure, and above all, an apathetic atmosphere. Parents and communities in general are not able to get the government to address these issues. Their own poverty creates pressures to put every available hand to work. The supply and demand inadequacies compound each other and reduce the likelihood of a child going to or staying in a school. Often many children migrate either daily or seasonally for work.
Why NFEs/SKs -
In these circumstances, Seva Mandir-run NFEs/SKs aim to ensure quality education in remote rural areas to children who are out of school. These SKs are single teacher/instructor schools with creative and joyful classroom environments where studying is more than ‘reading and remembering’. Most of these instructors have studied only up to class 8 or 9. Therefore, a number of trainings and meetings are organized by Seva Mandir on a regular basis for them to enhance their capacities and to also boost their motivation levels.
Investments in teachers’ capacities-
The trainings and meetings are also very important because the NFE/SK classroom is constituted by children of various age groups (between 6-14 years) and learning levels. Therefore the instructor must know how to engage all children with their relative studies meaningfully. The instructors also learn organizing various activities and using different study materials to make learning for children enjoyable. The enclosed report will give you an in-depth description of the kinds of trainings has been imparted to these instructors. The enclosed report also contains numerous stories and anecdotes about the NFEs/SKs from the field.
English as the new subject –
There has been also a constant demand from the community and the teacher to teach English at the NFE/SK. Therefore we did a pilot in October 2007 to initiate the English Language Teaching (ELT). The results have been encouraging so far. The children and the teachers are quite excited about learning a new language. About 25 NFEs/SKs are teaching English to their students.
The community’s involvement –
The report also recounts incidences in which the local community has participated actively to ensure education for their children in the areas where a large number of children were out of school. In many cases the communities are supporting these NFEs/SKs financially or encouraging education by making contributions in kind. The parents pay a small token fee of Rs. 5 per month for their children attending the NFEs/SKs. In most cases, the community buys uniforms for their children attending NFEs/SKs with the fee collected every year. It is a very good ‘community work’ to encourage children’s education and show fraternity. A study conducted showed that most parents prefer paying the fee in one or two installments every year and are willing to pay Rs. 100 every year. Therefore, from now on the parents will be requested to pay their children’s fee in one or two installments.
It is also very encouraging to observe that the parent-teacher meetings have also become quite frequent, helping to build a good relationship between the two. We learnt that most parents are happy to attend these meetings and learn about their children’s progress. At times, parents would stop by at the centre to see how and what the instructor was teaching. The report enclosed gives stories of some emotional parents, delighted with their children’s desire to study.
Experiencing quality education and its impact-
It is also very encouraging to observe that these NFEs/SKs have been able to provide an experience to the local communities of quality education and a guarantee to parents that their children are learning how to read and write Such assurances have led some of these communities to demand quality education from the Government. Moreover, in many cases the communities have attempted to work with the existing system to improve the situation.
Overall, these NFEs/SKs are providing a platform for mutual learning for both the teacher and the students. The presence of these centers also motivates the community to think about the issue of ‘quality education’ and its role in ensuring it is available to all children. Those children who graduate from these centers outperform others in the government schools, due to the deep educational foundations they have gained from the NFEs/SKs, rooted in curiosity and a desire to learn, not mindless repetition. They have better comprehension skills, socialize better and are able to explore ideas and think independently.
The results of a good education are well known to us. However, what is really remarkable about this program is the relationships forged because of the program: the relationship between the teacher and his/her children; the relationship between the child and his/her parents; the relationship of the community as a whole with the instructor; the relationship of one section/caste of the community with the other section/caste and the relationship of the parents with the teacher. The report enclosed gives a detailed account of the impact the NFEs/SKs have had on various sections of society.
All of this has been possible because of the regular support and deep faith you and our other friends have put in us for all these years. The project is not just about ensuring education - together we have been able to invest in transforming thousands of lives not only in the rural areas of Southern Rajasthan. The program will continue to reach out to thousands of children and hundreds of teachers every year. We hope to connect you with many of these individuals every year with your continuing support to this program.
A very big thank you from all of us at Seva Mandir. We hope to keep building on this foundation and continue to transform lives and expand the dialogue around the issue of education. It would be an absolute pleasure for us should you ever visit us.
Many many thanks once again to all of you. We are very fortunate to have you with us on this important journey.
With warm regards,