Like all other cities of India, Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh has its own share of slums and a large population belonging to economically weaker section. Most of the families cannot afford to send their kids to school. Many kids even if they are enrolled in Aaganvadi*, soon drop out due to lack of facilities, proper education and other family issues. Many of the boys have to start working at a very tender age so as to support their families financially and most of the girls take care of their younger siblings at home.

According to census 2001** the literacy rate of Madhya Pradesh is around 63%, two percent lower than the national average, with female literacy much below at 50% with the national average at 54.16%. Bhopal though has a slightly higher level of literacy rate as compared to other cities, but with a population of 1.43 million spread in an area of 284.9 sq km, the city has the highest urban poverty ratio of 48.4% among all Indian states (Planning Commission’s Estimates of Poverty, 1997). The Municipal Corporation of Bhopal is divided into 69 wards with 209 locations are notified as slums.

With the implementation of Sarvshiksha Abhiyan in 2001 and subsequently RTE, the government has succeeded in increasing the enrollments in aaganvadis and government schools, yet a lot more has to be done. Standards are very poor in most of these schools.

The quality of teachers, infrastructure, sanitation, hygiene all have a vital role in fulfilling the primary objective of providing meaningful education. Standards in all these crucial areas need to be improved to achieve the fundamental objective of providing quality primary education so that it leads to all round development of the children.

JSWS Bhopal works on the ideology that a society or a nation needs to educate and Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, Govt. of India, published a case study develop the faculties of the best of its young generation. JSWS being the sole funder and on Shiksha Kendra promoted by Jagran Social Welfare Society on implementing agency started working on various social welfare activities. In last 18 years of its existence, it has marked its presence in the field of primary and secondary education, adult literacy and is gearing up to train the youth especially from economically weaker section of the society through various vocational training courses.

*Anganwadi is a government sponsored child care and mothercare center in India.
** www.censusindia.gov.in

JOURNEY OF SHIKSHA KENDRA OPERATED BY JSWS

HARSHITA after completing her school education from Gurudev Shiksha Kendra, Bhopal, reached to Jagran Lakecity University under the scheme of Shiksha Kendra of Jagran Social Welfare Society, to realize her dream. Harshita is studying well as lawyer with excellence fulfilling university motto “Igniting minds; changing lives”.

In the year 2002, by all accounts, the odds were stacked against Harshita, to succeed…. the girl living in poverty stricken slum of Bhopal…. her parents unable to send her to any school due to abject poverty. She spent her time playing outside and taking care of her younger siblings. She lacked the confidence and structure she needed to succeed.

Life started changing for her in the year 2003, when Gurudev Shiksha Kendra started in Bhopal and enrolled herself in the school. It appeared as if she always wanted to fly and her new school gave her the wings. It was all fun, learning new things, and dreaming big in life. She scored 95% in standard V State Board Exams and got admission in Delhi Public School in 2007. Her life took a leap – she is currently (in 2017) studying Law at a premier University. Now there’s no looking back and she is well prepared for a beautiful life ahead. JSWS has the credit of changing lives of many such Harshitas through its initiative ‘Shiksha Kendra’.

The concept of ‘Shiksha Kendra’ started in the year 2003, inspired by DPS Society Shiksha Kendra, wherein the same school teachers were taking additional classes and providing free education to the underprivileged children. Shiksha Kendra was initially started by DPS Society to provide free education to underpriviledged and deprived children. Though many of the schools of DPS Society started this endeavour in 2003-2004, most of them closed down Shiksha Kendra after RTE Act was implemented in the year 2009.

The right of children to free and compulsory education Act (RTE), is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted on 4th August 2009, which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India.

Currently, JSWS is successfully running three Shiksha Kendras – the DPS Gurudev Shiksha Kendra at Bhopal, the DPS Somvati Devi Shiksha Kendra at Indore & Kolar Road Bhopal. The centre provides quality education to street children within the same campus of Delhi Public School (DPS) at Bhopal, Indore and Kolar Road through trained and qualified teachers. The Shiksha Kendra is also known as “Sunshine School” that operates each day from 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM. The school follows the Madhya Pradesh Education Board Curriculum and includes Classes I to XII. The meritorious students scoring above 75% are given free higher education in our own university i.e. Jagran Lakecity University Bhopal, under this scheme of our society.

KEY GOALS OF JSWS SHIKSHA KENDRA

The basic objective of setting up Shiksha Kendra is to fulfil the dream of education of every child by providing a platform for education…. to provide poorest of the poor, the underprivileged and deprived section of the society with quality education to brighten their future. The other goals are as follows:

  • To encourage and motivate parents of Economically Weaker Section (EWS) to send their children especially the girl child to schools to educate them so as to bring the kids into mainstream of the society.
  • To uplift poor section of the society, from abject poverty by providing a ray of light through quality education.
  • To enhance the skill, knowledge and attitude of every child to achieve overall development of his/ her personality.
  • To identify and sharpen the hidden inborn talent in children in all of the fields like arts, science, sports, dramatics etc.
  • To give an opportunity to capable and deserving students.
  • To promote value education.
  • To Kinde the light of literacy for less fortunate children.

Shiksha Kendra at DPS Bhopal started functioning in 2003-04 with three primary classes-nursery, first and second grade. By the year 2009-10, it scaled up to Class VIII and in few years it opened classes up to XII. Currently, 220 students are enrolled at Shiksha Kendra Bhopal.

The Shiksha Kendra of Indore started in academic year 2006-07 with the strength of 55 students, for classes first and second. Presently, it holds more than 210 students. The school has scaled up to class XII now. These students continue free education with all the facilities like bus, uniform, stationery till class XII. Moreover, the meritorious students get an opportunity to study at our university Jagran Lakecity University, under this scheme.

The admission system at Shiksha Kendra is transparent – only students belonging to BPL cardholder families are eligible for admission. JSWS volunteers go to the designated slum areas, fill the form for eligible children, and on a fixed date the students are admitted on the basis of a lucky draw. Only one child is picked from one family. The male- female student ratio is around 4:6, as more preference is given to girls.

Post enrollment, the school is also interested in providing quality education to students who are lagging behind in academics and are at the risk of dropping out. Many of them are first generation learners and lack support from their families. Remedial/bridge classes are arranged for these students during pre-school, post school hours or during holidays. Besides quality education, transportation, uniform, books, school bags etc. are provided without any cost to parents.

Holistic education is the need of the hour and Shiksha Kendra is dedicated to providing support in co-curricular activities. Regular health checkups are conducted for the students. Vocational training classes on stitching, embroidery, gardening, paper bag and envelope making etc. are organized during the summer and winter break. Besides academics, the school focuses equally on co-curricular activities and life skills.

Most of the students in the Shiksha Kendra are first generation learners and 100% of the students are from Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. For the parents who have never been to school, it’s  like a dream come true to see their kids in a premium school like DPS. Research identifies  a strong relationship between mothers’ levels of education and lowers morbidity, mortality, and fertility rates in families. Maternal schooling accounts for as much as half of the positive effects on children’s health, and socioeconomic status for the other half. Thus, the challenge is to train the parents so as to make the learning process for kids more effective.

An active and participatory teaching approach is adopted in the promotion of life skills. Numerous benefits to students and families resulting from strategies implemented and the related involvement have been experienced in the past. At JSWS we recognized that the range of knowledge, which builds on the real life skills of adults, is greater and its effect is immediate.

To create a better learning environment and to make the schooling more impactful, orientation classes and training sessions are regularly organised for parents especially for mothers of students at the campus of Shiksha Kendra. At Shiksha Kendra we know that simply organizing medical camps is not enough, behavioural change is also needed to ensure proper use and maintenance of the facilities and better hygiene. Parents are regularly counselled and sessions on primary health, hygiene, nutrition, and education are organised regularly. The aim is to make them aware of the importance of personal hygiene, clean drinking water, regular exercise, healthy balanced diet and to equip them to make positive health-related decisions. Besides counselling sessions on the evil effects of alcohol, tobacco, etc., consumption of which is much prevalent in the section of society are also regularly organised.

CHALLENGES FACED BY JSWS

  • The biggest challenge JSWS faced was not that of setting up of the school and the processes but of convincing the parents to send their children to school. Most of the children used to help their parents in earning their livelihood or take care of younger siblings at home when parents were out working. As a result, the parents were quite reluctant to send their children to school. The society, in 2009-10, even had to pay the parents the minimum daily wages to ensure sending of children to school.
  • The children needed a lot of support with personal hygiene. They had to be given a bath and a fresh pair of clothes before the commencement of classes. Gradually with parent orientation classes, importance of cleanliness and hygiene was communicated. Now, the students of Shiksha Kendra perform at annual functions at par with the students of DPS.
  • When interviewed, majority children expressed that they were satisfied with the quality of education, teachers and school support, yet had difficulty in adjusting to school curriculum when they were admitted in VIII standard in DPS. This is because Shiksha Kendra follows MP board syllabus whereas CBSE board is being followed in DPS. To help the students adjust to new environment and curriculum the students are expected to repeat Class VIII in DPS after completing the same at Shiksha Kendra.
  • Currently JSWS spends around INR 30 million per annum on free education and has scaled up to class XII. With this the school budget is going to be much bigger. Besides, for classes till XII, there is a need for better trained and qualified teachers, laboratories for science and art, etc. The society is also gearing up for the future to face potential challenges.
  • When Project Shiksha Kendra was started by JSWS as a philanthropic activity in 2003, CSR was an activity that was performed but not deliberated upon. Gradually the concept  of CSR has taken a concrete shape in India, with CSR being governed by clau se 135 of the Indian Companies Act, 2013. CSR is made mandatory within the Act to companies with an annual turnover of INR 1,000 crore and more, or a net worth of INR 500 crore and more, or a net profit of INR 5 crore and more. Many corporates, as well as SMEs, have come under its ambit.

Now one of the major concerns for these corporates is to look out for CSR projects and implementing partners who can effectively execute and deliver results on the ground.

The key challenge for JSWS was to formally document these activities as a CSR project. JSWS had to work on various requisites of a project like need analysis, project budget details, standardized and well-documented monitoring and evaluation methods, impact assessment analysis, etc.

WAY FORWARD

Today, Shiksha Kendra has achieved its goal and has touched the zenith. Utmost importance is given to train the teachers for which compensation has been kept. Compensation is a very important component to impart quality education and provide motivation to the teachers. The students who outperform at Shiksha Kendra are given opportunity to study at our University JLU, Kindling the light of to outshine in their careers.

As of now as JSWS is the sole funder and teachers training as well as compensation might have insufficient funds. The society has to look out for ways for better compensation and training facilities for faculties at Shiksha Kendra. They can opt for employee volunteer programs, whereby  teachers of DPS can take classes at Shiksha Kendra.

The young, dynamic and enterprising CEO of Jagran Lakecity University, Mr. Abhishek Mohan Gupta, Son of Mr. Hari Mohan Gupta has taken the responsibility of escalating the project further. As the Indian CSR agenda continues to be dominated by community development activities, particularly in the areas of health and education, there are a lot of corporates who will be willing to invest their CSR fund in a project like Shiksha Kendra.

As almost all of the students are first generation learners and belong to JSWS , even after school education, employment is a hard-to-achieve target for them. To be able to create large scale job opportunities, there’s need of strong education – apprenticeship and vocational training system that links schooling to the job market. Besides scholastic and nonscholastic activities, the school should focus more on skill development.

Standardization and documentation of monitoring and evaluation system need to be done to be better able to manage the project. As of now, the project Shiksha Kendra is reared like a baby by the founder of the Society, but eventually, on scaling up standard processes, monitoring and evaluation will be required to maintain quality teaching and learning.

Over the years, JSWS has transformed many lives. Based on the success so far, learning from the experience, and the feedback from the beneficiary community, the society is eager to replicate the project. JSWS goes in for in-depth need base research before starting a new project. This helps in mapping a better impact assessment. The challenge for JSWS will be maintaining this momentum. Though the founder is of the view that,

 

 

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