In strife-torn Dantewada, displaced children enjoy school
By Venkatesh Malur
Dantewada District, Chhattisgarh: Dornapal, about 115 kms from the district headquaters of Dantewada, lies in the heart of the area affected by the maoist civil strife in Chhattisgarh. The village has now become home for around 46,000 internally displaced persons for the past two years who live in the camp established by the government.
A large number of children in the school going age also live there and about 80% of them are enrolled into the Camp school which has 2,000 students studying in primary classes.
Of the 2,000 students around 700 students reside in the displaced ashram schools which have now been integrated into the Base Camp.
The Government has supported the schools by providing sheds for the students to live in and also to be used as classrooms. The camp school has 110 teachers but hardly 40 teachers attend school regularly. The average attendance in the school is around 900-1000 every day and mid-day meals are provided to the children.
It is 0815 hours in the morning; children can be heard learning the Varnamala (the Hindi alphabet) and the sound reverberates across the camp. The atmosphere in the camp transformed visibly in May 2007 when the Learning to Read programme was launched.
Diagnostic Test: Initially all the students in primary classes were administered a diagnostic test to assess their learning levels. The test was based on the competency model and helped identify how many children could read and write letters, words and passages and basic arithmetic skills of numbers, addition, multiplication, subtraction and division.
721 children were tested of which 150 (21%) could not read and 467 (65%) could not write Hindi. 469 students could not do simple arithmetic operations like addition and subtraction.
Grouping: The children were then grouped based on similar learning levels from lower to higher into groups of 25 students. Children in a group were then taught by the teacher/volunteer and provided ample time to practice and reinforce the learning.
Classroom environment: The classes, conducted from 8 to 10 in the morning every day, are colourful with clay art and colourful drawings made by the children. To support the classroom teaching/learning process every student has been provided with reading cards, note book, story book and story cards.
The resource persons initially oriented the teachers for two days on the methodology and implemented the programme in phases over a period of time. The teachers formed groups and taught the children using teaching/learning materials and activities that made the learning process very interesting for the children and fully involved them. The process involved the teacher teaching them a concept and providing activities (games and songs) for the children to understand the concept. The children then practice what they learnt, and the teacher assesses the learning and provides remedial teaching to needy children.
The School in a Box kit provided by UNICEF to support children to learn by using the different aids is very helpful. Children use the kit with great excitement and create various models to solve the puzzles and in the process learn basic mathematical operations. Supplementary readers have been provided to improve the reading habits of children. The children were given colouring books that finished colouring within a week and want more.
Mr. Patel, Supervisor says the children today have been oriented into the habit of daily reading and practicing maths. The teachers say that the classroom is very active today compared to what it was two months ago and they are able to see the results of their effort with children.
The outcomes of the process of the past one month can be summarized as follows.
Today Dornapal Camp school is a different picture than what it was 6 months ago as they have taken the initial step towards providing a better quality education to the students because of which some students who were irregular are attending school every day.