To improve the educational and living environment of children, it is essential that the children themselves be involved in the improvement process. In this program, children learn the importance of expressing their voice and taking action through activities in Children’s Groups and Children’s Media Groups, and they are encouraged to urge their teachers, parents and local community members to take necessary actions.
In Doulthabad, a local school’s Children’s Group consisting of about 10 students gathers twice a month to discuss school issues they have identified and future activities they would like to conduct. The issues identified to date include drinking water accessibility, single-gender restrooms, and the necessity of building fences around the schoolyard. With advice from the principal, the Club’s members called on the school’s management committee to address the above issues, and their efforts paid off—water pipes were installed, restrooms for girls were built in the school, and a government budget for construction of school fences was earmarked.
Issues such as these that are identified by Children’s Groups are communicated in respective local communities by Children’s Media Groups, which publish school magazines and organize related events. Through participation in the activities of Media Groups, children learn how to prepare meeting minutes and write easy-to-understand articles, as well as improve their skills in delivering speeches and taking photographs. As part of activities conducted to deliver their message, children sometimes perform plays. Preparing for such events gives them an opportunity to experience dancing and acting.
For example, the October issue of a school magazine from a local school in Sheerkhanpally not only covers the latest updates on the school and the local community but also includes drawings, stories, and poems from the students. The activities of Media Groups provide children with an extracurricular opportunity to develop their various skills.
A poor school environment prevents children from concentrating in the classroom. In more serious cases, children are not able to continue going to school. By making their voices heard in local communities through the aforementioned activities, children can participate in efforts to improve their environment, gain a better understanding of their communities, and develop their skills and ability to think and act on their own to solve issues, which in turn leads to continuous improvement of their learning and living environment.
Children’s Group in Doulthabad
Discussion at a Children’s Group
Learning how to use a camera
Theatrical practice by a Media Group
A school magazine from a school in Sheerkhanpally
Schools targeted in this education support program are placed in an environment quite different from that of schools in developed countries, which have clean classrooms, restrooms, libraries and laboratories for scientific experiments. The Indian government has set a budget of several hundreds of millions of dollars for fiscal 2013 for the purpose of improving local school environments and fostering compulsory education in the country. However, budgeting processes and details lack transparency at the state, district, sub-district and school level, and the budget distributed to each school tends to be too small to see an improvement in the quality of children's education.
The Right to Education Act enacted by the Indian government in 2009 indicates that school management, including budgeting, is to be led by local school management committees composed of teachers, parents, local communities and the children themselves. When the education support program was launched in 2011, however, the majority of local people did not know about the roles to be played by the school management committees and their members.
Through this education support program, we aim to enable local communities to improve their school environment independently in and after the end of the three-year program period. In the improvement process, the local school management committees will play important roles by discussing improvement methods and deciding on the school budget. Therefore, in the training provided under the program, we initially taught teachers, parents, local communities and the children themselves, that children have the right to receive education and each of the parties have their respective roles to play in school management, and we have fostered the organization of school management committees at each school for the improvement of school education.
For example, in Chintanchal village located in the Medak District, the local school management committee actually led discussions on a problem faced by the village school, namely, that girls tended to refuse to go to school. Through discussions carried out with the participation of the children themselves along with teachers, a local youth group and parents, it was revealed that the girls had refused to go to school mainly because there were no restrooms at the school. The budget distributed by the government (8000 rupees or about 133 usd), however, was insufficient to build restrooms. The school management committee responded quickly to this problem, collecting donations of about 7,000 rupees (about 117 usd), receiving support from the local youth group and communities. This support allowed the construction of separate restrooms for boys and girls within the school, and one of the main factors preventing girls from attending school was thus eliminated.
Improving the school management method and raising the educational awareness of people concerned indeed helps improve the learning environment of schools on a continual basis in a manner suitable to meet the individual needs of each school. This year, which is the third year of the education support program, we will make even further contributions to better governance of local school management and will promote the formation of school management committees also on sub-district levels while enhancing networks with governmental agencies, so that local people will be able to lead discussions with the agencies on problems related to school management on both district and sub-district levels.
Children studying outdoors due to a lack of classrooms caused by an increase in the number of students
Training on the Right to Education Act provided on a sub-district level
Parents gathered to discuss the reasons why girls refused to go to school
Newly constructed restroom
Meeting on the Right to Education Act held on a district level
We had planned to donate 10 digital duplicators within this fiscal year, and those to be donated to schools were delivered to their destinations by the end of January. Subsequently, the teachers were provided with necessary training and the schools have begun to use the duplicators to copy examination papers and teaching materials. We also donated one of the machines to the Mobile Child Resource Center, which is managed by a local NGO.
Because local government schools located in the areas covered by this education support program have few experimental instruments and teaching materials for science and arithmetic, the school children do not receive hands-on experience that is necessary to more deeply understand what they learn from textbooks.
To deal with this problem, the bus for the Mobile Child Resource Center stops at a total of 150 schools located in three districts, and is equipped with teaching materials to supplement school textbooks as well as easy-to-read books such as picture books. The bus visits two schools every day, taking two months to visit all the schools. The bus is also equipped with a power generator for lights and fans, so children can spend a more comfortable time there than in their classrooms.
When the bus arrives to the school, children board it, select the books of their choice, and read them earnestly. While the bus is at the school, the members of the Resource Center also demonstrate experiments with fire or water for the children using the supplementary teaching materials, and additionally communicate the importance of studying through song and dance performances. The bus thus provides children with a unique and pleasant learning opportunity.
The bus is presently equipped with our donated digital copier, so now when the members of the Resource Center take the bus to visit the schools, the school teachers are able to use the duplicator to print and distribute copies of necessary teaching materials and examination papers and can also print the materials prepared by them. We usually install digital duplicators for use at schools, but in this case, the duplicator is used on the bus. We installed the duplicator using special devices, including a clip that firmly fixes the machine in the bus to protect against damage from bumpy roads.
The bus comes to each school only once every couple of months, but if the teachers have prepared their teaching materials and copy them using the duplicator, they can use the copies later and do not need to waste time going to a store to print copies. Also, children do not need to spend much time writing down what is written on the blackboard. We expect that the mobile digital duplicator will not only help improve the lessons provided at the schools, but the learning environment as well.
The Mobile Child Resource Center bus
Children can spend a comfortable time on the bus, which is equipped with lights and fans
Children absorbed in their reading while riding the bus
Resource Center members teaching children through the use of cards
A duplicator installed in the bus