Alternate schools enable children to enter formal schools
By Seema Kurup
The class looks up eagerly towards Vatsala. She asks, “So what do you want to do today? Songs, exercises or drawing?” Songs get the unanimous vote. In the next instant, the entire class is on its feet, reciting one poem after the other.
According to Rehana Bailimo, the President of the organization, “Three years ago, a survey carried out by our volunteers revealed a figure of over 1300 out-of-school children in Arni. The Alternate Schools brought these children under its wings. In two years time, they were mainstreamed into a formal school. Our follow up reveals, they have continued with their schooling.”
The Alternate School process was initiated as a pilot project in the Arni taluka of Yavatmal, one of the poorest districts in Maharashtra. As Rehana says, “The quality of education in these classes enabled the children to pick up faster and join formal school. Till today, children from Alternate Schools continue to perform the best in formal schools.”
Alternate Schools offered out-of-school children the opportunity to enter the stream of education. Once regularized, children have the choice of getting mainstreamed into formal schools. The three year process has witnessed many a success story in the form of out-of-school children going on to become class ten pass-outs.
For volunteer-teacher Vatsala, running an alternate school class means reaching out to the poorest. “It is an opportunity to work with children, in a community that is the poorest, absolutely un-reached and marginalized. The Pardhi community where I work understood that education is a way to lead their children to a better life. The class now receives their full support. The current efforts are to procure birth certificates for the children to enable them to join a formal school.”
The class touches the community too. Parents clean and groom their children for class. Mothers take over most of the household chores so that their daughters get the opportunity to attend school. And young boys willingly put aside their hunting of wild birds for their two hours of class.
The resolute community and the teacher-facilitator then join hands to make education accessible for its children.
Vatsala’s class is full and bustling with little learners.