Voluntary organisations can take a leaf out of the pioneering efforts of the Vidyadham Samiti, says Bharat Dogra
School is a distant dream for children in many villages in India’s hinterland. Almost none of the children of Rajaram Ka Purva, a remote hamlet in Uttar Pradesh’s Banda District, have been exposed to education, because of poverty, absence of schools nearby and unsafe roads. The same is the case in other underdeveloped parts of the country, including the Bundelkhand Region, while other areas grapple with the problem of school dropouts, largely owing to the fact that these areas supply migrant labour to other parts of India.
To combat these problems, the Vidya Dham Samiti a voluntary organisation, has started organising special schools where children are taught roughly for about two hours in a day. The aim is to impart some measure of education till the children are able to have access to regular schooling. Under this model, the community is expected to create or provide a shelter for the school with its own efforts.
In Rajaram Ka Purva, Vidyadham Samiti has started an informal school taught by the only youth from the settlement who has gone to high school. Even this modest attempt has earned the gratitude of parents and brought much joy to the children. In other schools too, the teaching is done by a volunteer from the community, who is paid a token amount by way of encouragement. There is also a plan to add a nutrition component if funds can be raised.
The model can be replicated by other organisations in other parts of India. These informal schools require an estimated Rs 18,000 per year without the nutrition component (including the token amount to be paid to the volunteer), and Rs 78,000 if food is provided.
(The writer is a senior freelance journalist and author who has been associated with several social movements and initiatives.
He lives in New Delhi.)