The third week of the job shadowing period in Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP), Bhubaneswar, India, occurred from March 12th to 17th. The dominant feeling is, for sure, that time flies and we are already in the second half of this incredible experience. Therefore, we have focused our attention in researching about Education in India, in order to collect relevant information as well as obtain deeper understanding of main challenges and (persistent) issues experienced.
The government commitment with ensuring the right to free and compulsory education to all children aged between 6 and 14 years leaded to significant improvements during the latest years, including high investments in resources and infrastructures required to provide elementary school across the country. Indeed, this is one of the impressive gains highlighted by the report concerning the “Value for Money from Public Expenditure on Elementary Education in India” (Discussion Paper Series, The World Bank, April 2016). On the other hand, teachers, youth workers and other key players in this field, whom we had the chance to meet during these days, point out persistent issues. Their know-how is consistent with data reported by UNICEF in 2014, (“All in School. Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children. A situational Study of India.”): access to education may no longer be a major barrier, as infrastructures were created and/or steadily improved, but school attendance and continuous participation are challenges to be addressed. Indeed, most of the children from disadvantaged communities (such as slums and tribal villages) are first-generation school-goers and, per this reason, parents tend to undervalue the importance of education in a (successful) life project. Moreover, the pressure to participate in daily family life responsibilities (for example, earn money or look after their siblings) has to be tackled with a meaningful School that effectively provides further opportunities and a brighter (achievable) future.
Innovative methods of teaching to adapt schooling to their experience and context is required, so that Education becomes attractive for children and, gradually, meaningful. JRP acknowledges this vital strategy and has been mobilizing resources both to provide (non-formal) learning activities that stimulate their curiosity and motivate children to continue attending school and to raise parents’ awareness in regards to the importance of education to develop skills and to succeed in a challenging labour market. Being acknowledged in these disadvantaged communities was the first (important) step. Relationships have been established and nourished. These strong links are observable when we enter the slums or the tribal villages and we feel welcomed. On a daily basis, there are opportunities to undertake learning activities. In three weeks we have seen different dimensions of this complex and ambitious strategy of intervention: learning by playing, dancing or even celebrating significant events as well as stimulating interest by visiting local museums. A smile on a child’s face translates their willingness to learn. These are indicators of (positive) change and, hopefully, greater (positive) impact in these children’s lives!