In spite of the fact that India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and in spite of the Right to Education Act, which makes education not only possible but also compulsory for all children from the age of 5 to 14 years, India is the country with the largest number of out of school children in the world.
According to statistics, at least 8.1 million children in the age group 6 to 13 years are out of school while millions more do not attend school regularly. Many of them are growing up in urban slums. UN HABITAT states that India has 170 million slum dwellers. Many live under a sheet of plastic or create a shelter for themselves with whatever material they manage to find.
The children from these families often do not attend any schooling. Most families do not have the requisite official documents for enrolling the children in school. The parents themselves have no or very poor education and therefore do not pay much attention to their children’s need for education.
Humana People to People India addresses the needs of such children through the Academies for Working Children. The Academies serve the children of rural areas and slums in six locations of Rajasthan and NCR. The three Academies in Rajasthan are set at Neemrana, and Jagatpura and Malviya Nagar in Jaipur with the latter two been approved as Non-Governmental Educational Institutes, which allows them to award formal qualification certificates to children, for the classes attended and passed.
The Academies provide activity based, programme oriented learning to Out of School Children, which grants them the freedom to master the content at their own pace. The activities are carefully designed to facilitate the working of children in groups, to learn the concepts, theoretically and practically. The Academies have adopted the government school curriculum, to make transition to mainstream education easier. To facilitate all- round growth of children, comprehensive personality development, art encouragement and sport promoting activities are also incorporated with the study sessions.
Each Academies for Working Children has a main centre with regular classrooms and 4 satellite centres in or very near to the slum where the children live. It is our experience that the learning centre has to be very close to the children’s home. Once the children develop a habit of going to school every day, their holistic development can be targeted. One of the reasons for our success with this program is the commitment of the staff that daily visits the families, meet the parents and solve their problems such as health issues, arranging proper documents for enrolling the child in the government schools etc. Since its inception, AWC’s have benefitted 13,000 drop-outs and out of school children and currently reach out to 1260 children annually.
KADAM – The Step-up Centres
The Step-up Centres are conceptualized to ensure that not just educational prowess but holistic development of an underprivileged child is pursued which helps them gain sufficient traction to merge with the formal government education system.
Step-up is a yearlong programme. It is designed by blending the formal learning and skill based experiences, engaging children for six days in a week. Aligned with the norms of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Step-up is a Multi Grade Multi Level framework, which aims to provide outcome based learning to Out of School children.
With education at the fulcrum, buttressed by cooperation between, child, HPPI, community and government, the approach focuses on establishing activity based, child-centric learning centres that benefit larger number of out of school children, bereft of basic quality education.
The development of the Programme started in 2012, and by putting framework in practice, Step-up centre’s reach has nearly quadrupled from 166 centers reaching out to 4569 children in 4 states in 2014-15 to 557 centers impacting 14,450 children in 5 states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Tamilnadu.
AWC proved to be an important precursor to initiate the concept of Step-up Centres. Humana People to People India aims to establish 1200 Step-up centres reaching out to 300,000 children over the next 10 years to assist National and State Governments in meeting the goals of Right to education and the UN Millennium Development Goals for Education.