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11 Jul 2019

The Importance of a Good Education

Seva Mandir has always pursued education at the forefront of its ambitions, starting in adult education when it was founded in 1968. Today, we fight to ensure that a quality education is accessible to all backgrounds and age groups. This addresses pressing issues as the majority of children have limited access to primary schooling or have dropped out due to financial constraints or family obligations. Education paves the way for many other development goals such as more job opportunities, higher income, better health practices and gender equality.

Seva Mandir currently runs 148 Shiksha Kendras (bridge schools) which prepare children to enter or re-enter government education, reaching many villages and children that otherwise would be too isolated from other schooling facilities. Teachers trained from the local community hold classes of between 25 and 30 pupils between the ages of 6 and 14 years old. These teachers not only engage further local interest and investment, but act as role models for students with similar backgrounds and aspirations. Locally run schools not only provide long-lasting job opportunities, but also inspire young children to break away from traditional roles present within their community. For example, last year 44% of enrolled students were girls, showing that more girls than before are encouraged to pursue education and work outside of the home.

Yet poverty still forces some children to miss years of schooling, and many begin working as agricultural labourers, migrate for work, or conduct household chores. Seva Mandir's community education representatives speak to families and to community institutions about the benefits of sending their children to Residential Learning Camps and the opportunities opened up to children who complete their schooling.

Residential Learning Camps run three times a year for 60 days each and teach students basic literacy and numeracy skills in small classes with a ratio of 10:1. Seva Mandir provides holistic teaching to instil confidence, a love of learning and faith in education. Children are taught a condensed curriculum that includes basic material in maths, Hindi, English, science, sport and cultural activities, which enables them to enrol in government schools. Residential camps also include on-site accommodation, clothing, hygiene kits, education tools, and a canteen offering 3 nutritious meals a day.

Reema Gamar is 11 years old and used to work as a labourer at a brick kiln in Gujurat before attending Seva Mandir's Residential Leaning Camp. She recounts her year at the camp enthusiastically,

I have learned how to write my name, learned the names of fruits and animals, how to do addition, subtraction, arrange numbers in increasing-decreasing order, and also learnt some English words with their meanings. I have learned to use a computer at the camp, and now I can even paint using it!

Including Reema, 5,000 rural children have attended the Residential Learning Camp since 2002, leaving with vital skills to take with them for the rest of their life.

However, government schooling is still improving its reach and quality, and we have begun working with them to improve the levels of education, subject-specific teachers and teaching methods. We are doing this by building the staff's capacity through teacher training, constructing resource rooms and providing support.

By changing attitudes towards education, and offering rural and tribal communities an opportunity to access quality education, Seva Mandir strives to improve the lives of children across our region.

Read more about our work in Education.

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