Education is a key investment in any country with enormous social and economic benefits accruing from it. The development of any country in the 21st century will be determined by the level and growth of its human capital. It is therefore very important that every child, whether in a rural or urban community, equally benefits from quality education in order to promote development.
Progress in achieving these goals is slow because of lack of adequate supply of teachers, their effective deployment, an inept training system to equip them with the required skills and lack of efficient management. Indeed, without teachers and a robust education system, no economic well being can take place. Teachers are the change agents for the emergence of educated communities.
Skill in Village is a program where the teachers reside in the village and work around the clock for teaching the students, engaging in community building activities and creating awareness in the villages about education. The program started with only one teacher and now has an enthusiastic young group of 42 teachers. The model is such that some teachers are hired externally and some teachers are hired from the village itself.
Who are CRPs?
CRPs are teachers who belong to the same village as the centre. They contribute four hours per day for the Skill in Village program.
How did it start?
In Skill in Village program, teachers reside in the village and are accessible 24*7 for the students. They handhold the students for academic growth and mobilise the community for the cause of education.
Initially, full-time teachers were hired for the program. They hailed from other villages and were assigned SIV centers where they would stay for the length of the intervention in a year. As the program paced and growed, it was observed that these teachers could not stay in the assigned villages for a long time due to personal reasons such as pursuing higher studies, coaching for competitive exams etc. This affected the stability of the program and the smooth delivery of content in the centres. In addition to this, the cost of recruiting and training the teachers came up as another challenge. To overcome these challenges and to make the program model sustainable, the team explored a few models and got inspired by organisations working for a similar cause, hence designing the CRP model of program delivery. Employability for the rural youth and developing a strong and lasting foundation in the community are the twin motives of the CRP model.
5 CRPs were hired for Belavatagi, Nagarahalli, Honnapura, Bhandiwada, Navalli. Out of these, 4 centres performed well in terms of increased attendance, a higher rate of fee collection and lower dropouts.
Why this model?
- Community reception: People of the village will be very familiar with the CRP as they are from the same locality. The community will be more comfortable and fast in developing relations with the teacher.
- Sustainability: The CRP is from the community and hence comes with a solid and strong awareness of what is best for their community. The probability of them committing and sustaining through the cause is very high.
- Cost-effective: The salary expectation of a CRP is almost half that of a regular SIV teacher, as they have to devote only 4 hours per day.
- Lower dropout rate: CRPs will be better available and accessible in the villages and hence would help to lower the dropout rates.
- Higher rate of fee collection: Because of the inbuilt trust among the villagers, the rate of fee collection is also more in case of CRPs.
- Opportunity: This model gives the opportunity for the local talents who cannot migrate to other places because of various reasons and responsibilities.
How are CRPs selected?
- First of all, cluster heads will visit the Anganwadi and Gram Panchayat office to collect the basic information of human resources available in the village. They will collect the information regarding the graduates and passionate people who can contribute to the program.
- Committed and passionate candidates who are already working with private schools or working as guest teachers/lecturers in the Government schools are identified for the recruitment process.
- The cluster heads of respective clusters visit and meet candidates personally and conduct the primary interview for those who are interested. During the primary interview, a language skills test is also conducted,
- Once the primary interview level is over, character verification of the candidate is done. Here, the Cluster heads collect opinions and recommendations from Panchayat, villagers, school etc.
- If the candidate is recommended by most of the stakeholders, then he/she will be called for the next level of the interview conducted by the Program and the foundation’s HR team.
The major challenge of the model is to select the best resource person within the limited resources available. As per the learnings from the pilot, the CRP model will be scaled in the coming years.
Best practices during the pandemic: This year, as the novel coronavirus surged into a global pandemic, schools all over the world shut their door, forcing an abrupt shift to distance or online learning. Though at first the situation seemed like a temporary solution, it gave way to a new normal, as students were forced to learn without the traditional learning system. For rural India, online learning was not an easy substitute considering the already existing obstacles caused by digital divide.
Some examples where teachers/ institutions/ NGOs made the way to rural India through unique methods are listed below:
- Sikkim Government launched an Edutech app but did not get a very positive response because of the lack of resources on the ground. Hence, they shifted towards the ‘homeschooling’ method where teachers visit homes following guidelines.
- Nagaland government had distributed pen drives loaded with study materials among students of classes 5 to 12 residing in rural areas where they are unable to attend online classes due to poor network connectivity.
- West Bengal collaborated with the Block Development Officer (BDO) and arranged for classes to be held via loudspeakers. Lessons are recorded and broadcasted to the students at regular school hours so that they can study from the comfort of their homes.
- In Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, teachers are using the radio as a medium to reach students who do not have access to the online mediums.
- Odisha Shiksha Sanjog – a Whatsapp based digital learning programme has been launched in Odisha that shares e-content with class groups in a streamlined way. Education through Whatsapp is also being dispensed in Punjab and Puducherry.
- Puducherry and Karnataka are telecasting the classes through virtual control rooms on local TV channels and Doordarshan channels.
As important as continuing quality education is, it is just as important to keep the rural students on track by supporting their learning and monitoring them closely.
Efforts may not be holistic but it sure will prevent mammoth dropout rates and absenteeism in the upcoming years.