Volunteering to improve the quality of education in rural schools
by Anjali Makhija, Capacity Building Centre and Ellora Mubashir, Consultant
The conditions of government schools in many parts of rural India are abysmal. The student–teacher ratio is high; facilities such as drinking water and toilets are lacking; the quality of teaching and classroom materials is poor. Teachers are burdened with myriad activities other than teaching, which leaves little time for meaningful engagement with their students. The new non competitive education system in India has brought stress-free education for young students at one level. However, in the absence of exams, teachers, especially in the government schools, cannot reliably assess their children’s academic progress. Even if they find some children lagging behind in a few subjects, there are hardly any coaching classes or extra tuitions available for children in rural areas. Further, children often do not receive any support or guidance at home since many of their parents are illiterate. Such conditions in many rural government schools are leaving rural children at a disadvantage and offer limited career options. Girls face even more difficulties. The drop‑out rate after the primary and secondary school levels among girls is alarmingly high. In villages, girls are responsible for looking after their siblings, doing household chores and working in agricultural fields; parents often do not value girls’ education.
A powerful way to improve the quality of education in rural government schools in India is by enrolling volunteers who have the time and the abilities to contribute to schools. At the onset, volunteers need to obtain permission to work in schools from the Block or District Education Officer. After that, volunteers can start improving the schools by facilitating the construction of essential school infrastructure; engaging the required number of teachers; making the government’s mid‑day meal functional; enhancing student enrollment; introducing teaching aids to make learning enjoyable; and revitalizing School Management Committees (SMCs).
Company employees and individuals can contribute in the following ways:
- Conduct coaching classes in English, computer and science;
- Conduct remedial classes for academically weak students;
- Conduct classes for girl children (female teachers preferable);
- Organize events such as sports days, celebration of national days, drawing competitions and crafts sessions;
- Adopt a school to be developed as a model school with 100% enrollment and higher retention;
- Organize cleanliness drives and sessions on hygiene and sanitation at schools;
- Introduce and conduct joyful teaching and learning.
Academics and students can contribute in the following ways:
- Provide inputs to curriculum-based assessments of children and teaching methodologies;
- Conduct interactive sessions and training’s on SMCs to widen and sustain their participation;
- Develop training materials and educational tools for children;
- Engage communities in activities such as literacy campaigns, group discussions and competitions;
- Develop curriculum for informal education for adolescent girls to enhance their confidence and impart the information on reproductive health.
With limited human and financial resources, we have been able to engage volunteers and show impact in some schools in District Mewat in Haryana. In the process, we have learnt a lot concerning what needs to be done and how. In general, all stake holders need to exert a more concerted effort to improve the quality of education, as well as to increase the access to education, through engaging the entire chain of the village education system.
The challenges of education in rural areas are vast, the mandate is wide and therefore, the opportunities too are tremendous. Mewat alone has 531 primary, 272 middle, 44 high and 24 senior secondary schools and all of them need assistance. The volunteers in Gurgaon and Delhi can contribute significantly to the improvement of rural schools—They can identify schools close to their areas, assess the conditions of the schools and take up initiatives by matching their time and resources available.
Together, we can prepare a roadmap for integrating volunteering into school management through consultations with school administrations. This roadmap helps schools forge partnership with other organizations and networks. When people share their time and effort in volunteering, they will experience immense joy and affections returned by many. Volunteering will bring a new sense of belonging by dissipating social barriers, instilling self-confidence, making acquaintances and leading to personal development.
School Management Committee (SMC) is a mandatory body under Right to Education (RTE). 75% of SMC members are parents whose children are studying in government schools. The SMC is responsible for management of the school.
For the number of schools in Mewat, please see http://mda.nic.in/Mewat-Glance.htm