Is it difficult going to homes and convincing parents to send their children to school and paying a portion of their fees once they get into mainstream schools? Wouldn't the parents of these children prefer having the child around at home supplementing their income or just giving an additional hand with the household work?
Ans: As you correctly posed this issue, we have faced many difficult situations when we visit our communities to talk to the parents as well as the children. I would answer this question in three points.
The first being that we have observed the people in the communities we work in are generally very logical in their calculations to why they should or should not send their children to school. We cannot win them through mere emotional talk or empowering them about their rights. We need to show them calculations of the returns the child will be able to bring in if he is working without an education or if he works after an education. We enlighten them about the difference in monetary returns, financial and social growth and security of being a skilled labour and an unskilled labour. We merely state the two differences in the form of numerical calculations in front of them without posing a certain bias on either one side, after doing so we have generally seen that they choose the path which has higher monetary returns and sustainability.
The second would be that, many times we have realised through our intervention in the community that it is not always a case where the children are deprived of their access to education because the parents do not want them to. But we see that the children themselves are least interested or bothered about schooling. The parents may not impede their children from attending school but they are not aware of the manner in which they should push the child to attend school. For example, when a parent is asked why their child is not attending school, their response would just be of beating the child and telling him to attend, or they would respond with an attitude of indifference saying, "What to do, he likes playing and roaming around". This issue with the children requires regular visits to the community and a process of slow conditioning of the child to start looking forward to school.
The third would be the process through which we involve the children and parents along with our bridge school program. We not only bridge the children into the mode of schooling but also the parents. We provide food for the children in school and through a step-by-step process we take our children and parents along with us as they see changes in the children's progress, habits, hygiene, attitude which transpires to their homes and families. They see the children who are already bridged and put in mainstream schools and build a certain faith in the strengths of this process of education.
You have very ambitious targets for the students who enroll in your schools. How do you ensure that these targets are maintained?
Ans: The Samridhdhi Program has two basic fractions when it comes to targets from the students: The Bridge program and the after-school program. In our Bridge program, our targets for the students are to ensure that the children's attendance is maintained and their bridging is complete in the period of one to two years. The attendance is monitored with regular checks and visits to the community, the provision of food which attracts them and with incentives. The bridging process is maintained through customised curriculum for each child. We do not have a curriculum which is written in stone, but it is always modified based on the needs of the children to be able to maintain the targets.
The after-school program has many targets like attendance, keeping at par with the school's expectations and targets. We administer this through are close intimate program of daily tuitions, accessibility to extra-curricular activities like sports, music, dance, art, field trips etc for a holistic growth of the children. To maintain and reward the children's zeal to attend classes and push themselves to grow, we give them incentives. For example, we tell the children if they manage to maintain 95% attendance and score around 80% marks, they receive rewards such as a trip to a different city - Delhi, Mumbai, etc. These incentives gets the children excited and we can ensure a positive environment of learning.
One of the aspects I personally like about your syllabus is the fact that while you emphasize the importance of the local language (in this case Kannada in Bengaluru), you also find a place for their native tongues. Therefore, can we say that your goal isn't complete assimilation but rather giving children a more cosmopolitan outlook of the world where their own roots aren't forgotten?
Ans: This question is beautiful posed in the manner of answering it on behalf of us as well. Haha.. Well you are absolutely spot on with your analysis of this goal of ours. We include the the children's local language in the curriculum because we do believe that the look of the world we are providing to the children should enable them to move forward by holding on to their roots as well as imbibing new understandings and learnings in order to shape one's life. We also believe a child understands best when you relate it to the language of his thought process, which at that early age is their mother tongue, because at the mercy of a foreign language they lose out on basic conceptual understanding and ability to apply what they are learning.