Education isn’t only about teaching the curriculum as dictated by institutions.
Unlike schools in metropolitan cities and towns that are technologically equipped and inculcate various teaching methodologies, schools in rural areas suffer from the lack of all these assets.
Furthermore, the lack of quality education in rural India is one of the gravest reasons why many children drop out of schools even before reaching matriculation level.
Happy Horizons Trust is a non-profit organisation that works towards strengthening primary school education through the youth leadership development program in rural parts of Bihar.
Founded by Kshitiz Anand and Vatsala in 2012, the organisation empowers high school girls through a fellowship program where skills like storytelling, basic craft and comprehensive activities are imbibed.
The champions, a designation conferred to the fellows by the trust, then organise sessions for primary school children in order to enhance their learning process.
The ideation of the program came after the couple’s first visit post marriage to their native town of Saharsa in Bihar, where they grasped the sad reality of primary education in the region.
“It was sometime in 2011 when we found that the teaching in primary schools stuck to the curriculum and hardly inculcated any engaging activity for the kids that would make learning interesting. When there wasn’t any motivation, why would a child want to continue studying?” says Kshitiz.
Following this, they went around many schools across the region and found the situation quite similar in almost all of them.
Vatsala, who has a journalism background, excelled at storytelling and together, they tried engaging children in these schools in comprehensive sessions.
“At first they seemed a little reluctant probably because something like this would have been a first for the kids. But slowly, we could see inhibitions breaking and the children started asking questions and wanted to hear more stories,” he says.
That’s when the duo realised that the lack of comprehensive models in the primary schools were the deterrent. But the issue that appeared a molehill was in fact a mountain.
“We knew we couldn’t change the entire education system, but we could start somewhere. Our love for storytelling was the probably the foundation for further endeavours”, he recalls.
The region also had a large number of unskilled youth despite having basic education.
Connecting the dots, the couple came up with the fellowship idea that would offer skill training for high school girls and at the same time provide overall development for kids.
“The fellowship programme is over a period of 3 years, after which each champion is given the responsibility of a school. Most of these schools have small enrolment, making it easier for the girls. The intention is to develop the motor and communication skills of the children through the sessions and arouse curiosity in them,” Kshitiz explains.
Initially starting on their own, the couple is now backed with a fully functioning team divided between Bengaluru, Delhi and Bihar.
“From two champions, today we have managed to produce 16 over a period of five years. The best part is that, two of the champions have been offered the post of teachers in primary schools because of their connect with the children. They look up to them as inspiration and have become the local role models”, he adds.
Paving the foundation for a better education system in Bihar, Happy Horizon’s effort is commendable, especially when viewed from the perspective of empowering the youth.
Keep up the great work!
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