‘Second freedom struggle’ for first rate schools

Vandemataram Foundation shows the way

Migrating from the rural areas to cities to make it big in life is common. What is rare is to go back to the villages to share the fruits of one’s achievement in the city. About 30 persons from different walks of life from the city are supporting a foundation that is now changing the face of government schools in rural areas. They have produced 138 students who have made it to the IIITs and 150 others who have got free seats in corporate schools. Venu K Kodimela takes a close look at this reverse migration.

“Today, the situation in rural areas is pathetic as people look for alms. The government hands out doles like rice at Rs 2-a-kilo and other subsidies. No doubt it is necessary in a few cases.

There is no self respect or self reliance left in rural areas,” says city-based social activist Madhav Reddy Yadma.

“Moral values have hit the rock bottom and it can be attributed to lack of quality education. There is no emphasis on moral education and patriotism. To inculcate values, one has to reach out to the young ones in rural areas.

To revive moral values and to inculcate patriotism among students, we have come up with the concept of “Our School, Our Village, Our Country.”

To achieve these and related goals, the Vandemataram Foundation was started during the celebrations of the centenary of the Vandemataram Movement in 2005. Inspired by former President Abdul Kalam, it is now involved in the betterment of children with focus on their well-rounded education.

Launching “a new freedom struggle”, this time against poverty and illiteracy, it is changing the lives of children and is already active in 200 schools located in the interior areas of Warangal and Mahabubnagar districts.

The members and volunteers of the foundation have managed to enroll 90,000 students since 2005, and, thanks to what is offered in schools administered by them, the drop-out rate is a mere 5-6 %.

Today, the strength in classrooms of schools handled by the foundation has increased, monitoring of schools by parents is regular, and the attendance of teachers has improved. All of this has resulted in the overall improvement of school performance in the SSC examination.

“The central government and the state government spend huge amounts of money on education. It is estimated that Rs 20,000 is spent on each student a year.

Today, even a school in a small village has infrastructure and is well-staffed. Some of the schools have as many as 30 teachers, but they fail to produce good results in the SCC examination,” a representative of the foundation.

In some cases, schools have computers worth Rs 10 lakh, but they don’t have provision for security. If everything is in order, then the schools might face power cuts during school hours and struggle to buy fuel for generators.

“For the sake of 10 litres of kerosene, the computer lab may closed for students. If the youths of the village contribute and buy kerosene, then the students could use the lab. It all boils down to responsibility.

None is ready to take responsibility as the parents don’t question the management. Parents of most of the students these days are either illiterates or don’t demand answers from the school administration.”

A school shapes the future of every child. It is a place where every one learns the basics of life and graduates into the world. Making a village school the nodal point, the foundation builds a team consisting of village elders, youths and alumni of the school.

These teams, working in tandem with the parents and the teachers of the school, actively involve the students in various constructive and creative activities. Akshrabhyasam is the traditional Hindu way of way of initiating children into education. Children in the school going age are indentified in select villages and initiated into education in the presence of village elders.

About 90,000 children have been so admitted to schools since 2005 and the drop-out rate is low, at 5 to 6 percent. Slates from the temple town of Basara are brought to the villages and assurance is taken from their parents and villagers that they would support the education drive.

Kishori Vidyavikasam
Many girl students discontinue studies after SSC mainly due to financial constraints of parents and they are forced into marriage at an early age.

This will tell upon their health and their future children. To help overcome these difficulties, under the foundation’s Kishori Vidyavikasam programme, financial support is given to indigent girls to pursue their education. Over 2,500 girls have benefitted from the programme.

Another important aspect of the programme is that after their college hours, these girls run study centres at home for students of government schools. This helps the girls to develop leadership qualities and improve their own performance in studies.

Festive gatherings
On Rakshabandan day, school children tie rakhis to their elders and get an assurance from them that they would not employ children in farms and other activities. School children tied over five lakh rakhis in 2007, 7.5 lakh in 2008 and 9 lakh rakhis in 2009 as part of this programme.

Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated in 60 village schools in Warangal district. Each student brings a lamp from his home to inculcate concern for government schools among the people in general.
Study centres are also run on the school premises one hour ahead of school and two hours after the school by volunteers.

Weak students in higher classes are identified and sent to these study centres for extending help. Camps are conducted to encourage meritorious students who may not have a congenial atmosphere at home.

They are supported by residential study camps with all facilities for focused study. Some of such students have come out in flying colours. As many as 138 students have been selected for IITs and over 150 got free seats in corporate schools.

Study trips are organised for students in the city so as to help them understand life in villages. Children from DAV Safilguda visited Banagipeta village in Warangal district in November 2010.

Under the Varadhi programme, the DAV school adopted the Zilla Parishad Secondary School of Banajipeta. This programme is intended to strengthen bonds between students in the city and their counterparts in rural areas.

 Source: Hansindia

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