What can be more delightful than seeing children joyfully enter their respective school premises at 7 am, unmindful of the inhospitable weather conditions prevailing in their regions?
Yes, more and more children in parts of Dharwad and Gadag districts of Northern Karnataka are now beginning to eagerly make their way to school every day, braving heavy rains and cold winter mornings on some days and sweltering heat on others, thanks to the Skill in Village programme.
Learning to speak and write in English is a great challenge to these students from the rural belt. For many, it is a dream. However, thanks to the programme, this dream is now becoming a reality for several of these children from the region. It is a well known fact that the number of children from rural areas who can communicate in English confidently is relatively much smaller when compared to the number of such children from urban areas.
The Skill in Village initiative was formulated by the Deshpande Foundation in July 2017 with the vision of empowering every child in the immediate rural ecosystem by making them future thinkers, leaders and doers.
The SiV model has been designed using proven techniques and research and caters to sixth to ninth grade students studying in government schools.
The two-hour classes begin at 7 and go on until 9 in the morning and begin at 5.30 and end at 6.30 in the evening on six days a week. The classes are divided according to students’ grades. The programme is for a period of 10 months and is currently on in 12 centres.
The current centres are located at Ballarwada, Arishinagodi, Tirlapura, Srirkola, Hebbala, Khanapura, Hirekoppa, Vasana, Kurugovinakoppa and Ibrahimpura villages in Dharwad and Gadag districts.
With 11 well trained teachers and 3 cluster heads, the program this year proved beneficial to 650 students. The SiV program focuses on enhancing the creativity, competency and listening, speaking, reading & writing skills (LSRW) of the enrolled students.
In the academic year 2019, SiV is looking forward to reach out to over 6,000 students through a 100 centres.
“With well designed content curated by industry experts, periodical comprehensive teacher training, systematic student and teacher assessments, technology integration and evaluation & monitoring at regular intervals, this program can yield better results year by year. Providing a platform for skill development at the right age can do wonders and it has the power to eradicate poverty, hope for development and better scope for self empowerment,” says Harish M H, Program Manager, Skill in Village.
The 2018-2019 batch in three centres – Hallikeri, Hirekoppa and Hebbala — recently completed their program and had their graduation ceremony. The graduation ceremony for the remaining 9 centres is to take place before the end of this month. The time spent by the SiV team with the students during the last six to seven months has helped them develop a wonderful bond with the students. In fact, wherever the program has been held, the entire village has been very supportive. Due to the love of the villagers and their demand for the initiative, it has become a huge success. It is now being scaled up to benefit 6000 students in the coming academic year.
Nagamma Herappa M, a teacher of SiV, says, “For the last three months, I have been teaching students at the Habbal centre. I feel so happy for having come to this village and for having taken up this job. How many people can claim to have the joy of being loved by children and the entire village, be provided complete protection and care by the villagers and to top it all, get paid for the job? To be frank, I rarely miss my hometown these days.
“During my initial days, I used to ask myself if whether these students would be able to learn to communicate in English or if all our efforts would go in vain. Now, I have no doubt. It took me two weeks to get adjusted to this village. We teachers receive at least 10 calls from parents of the students telling us that their wards have improved a lot. And the best part is students are not just keen on studies but also show good change in their behaviors. All these give us immense job satisfaction.”
Pushpa Pattar, the mother of Manjunath Pattar (a student enrolled in the SiV program) turned emotional during the graduation ceremony. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she said, “English was an alien language to us. We do not even have a television set at home to hear or see people talking in English. Moreover, nobody in our family is educated. My son is able to read and write in English now. What is more, he has also begun concentrating on all other subjects. Looking at this confidence, I have now begun to harbor great hopes that one day he will become an officer.”
Like Manjunath, many students have begun to realize their dream and are beginning to believe that they have a bright future ahead. They can be future leaders, thinkers and doers without doubt. Their confidence and communication skills together can help them do great things. This is how SiV is trying to develop the mindset of rural India.