This Christmas Eve, we were invited to Harkadas Primary School, a Government run school located in Pune’s oldest slum. This school, is one of many schools operated by the Pune Municipal Corporation. It attracts children from neighboring slums as fees are nominal, and kids are provided a free mid-day meal at lunch time.
India’s current Education Crisis
Most (if not all) municipal schools in India, that are funded by local civic bodies, lack basic infrastructure (fans, lights, desks and clean toilets).
Besides this, they also lack the ability to attract good teachers. As a result, municipal schools struggle to offer quality education to children from low-income families.They struggle even more to retain children in school. The reasons are several:
Children cannot relate life in the slums, to what is being taught – For example, although kids are taught English, they have no opportunity to speak the language, and cannot read or write in English.
Moreover, children and their parents do not see education as being critical towards helping them overcome poverty and providing them access to a better life. Obtaining an education becomes dull, uninteresting and useless to children from low-income backgrounds. Eventually, around the age of 10 years, they drop out of school.
Dropping out, drastically reduces their chances of learning the necessary skills to survive in today’s highly competitive job environment. They also become more prone to drug and substance abuse and may turn to crime in the long run.
Currently, over 40% of India’s population (or about 400 million people) are illiterate. This gives rise to several social and economic problems within the country. However, if each child were to receive access to quality education, many problems would go away.
Teach For India
Teach For India (TFI) is a non-profit organization that was created 2 years ago. TFI’s goal is to provide high quality education to every child, irrespective of the school he or she attends.
To achieve this, TFI recruits, trains and mentors Fellows who are committed to the goal of providing children with good quality education. Fellows come from diverse backgrounds.
TFI Fellows spend 2 years with children in a low-income school. The goal is to radically alter the children’s’ perspective on what school has to offer to them.
This is done by exposing children to the possibilities that exist for them after receiving an education. Students are engaged in games and other fun learning activities, and taught using innovative techniques otherwise absent in government run schools.
How Santa saved the day
We experienced these techniques at work, first hand on Christmas Eve. TFI Fellows, along with Britannia Nutrition Foundation organized a Christmas Party at Harkadas Primary, featuring Santa Claus.
This was the first time the kids had seen a real life Santa, and also the first time they had their own Christmas party. These were concepts, which the kids had only heard of before, and they were now a part of their lives.
By exposing children to different cultural and social activities within the school curriculum, learning has become fun again. Learning rates at Harkadas Primary have drastically improved. Children now look forward to school. They are competitive, and keen to learn more. And most of all, they see the value that education can bring in to their lives.
To know more about Teach for India, please visit the TFI website.