I had an interesting conversation with two feisty women from Rajasthan this weekend. These two women had chosen to be educators at the Ekal Vidyalaya School in rural Rajasthan.
The Ekal Vidyalaya is based on the principle of one school-one teacher. The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, a non-profit organisation, involved in education and village development in the remotest rural and tribal villages of India, established these schools.
This initiative, which is being run by the Heritage group of schools, is benefitting nearly 5000 students in rural parts of Rajasthan, Sikkim, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh. About 150 teachers are spearheading this project.
As a part of this initiative, 30 Ekal teachers from Rajasthan and five members of the leadership team were invited for a 3-day teacher-training workshop to the Heritage Xperiential Learning School in Gurugram. The workshop focused on helping the Ekal teachers experience the use of different classroom management tools and teaching strategies to engage students in the learning process.
We, at The Better India, caught up with Savita Devi Meena, from Sadaldi village in Rajasthan, and Kamla Joshi, from Udaipur.
It was in 2012 that Savita began her teaching journey. She primarily teaches children between the ages of six and 14.
When asked about why she took to teaching, she answers, “We come from a very interior part of the country. If the child in the village wants to study, they have to travel at least 15 kilometres to get to the school. This becomes one reason why children refrain from attending school. It was an attempt to change this that pulled me towards this profession.”
She goes on to say that since becoming a teacher, she feels very empowered and enjoys being in class with her students. “To know that because of us, so many students are being benefitted, is something that I cherish,” she says.
The importance of training programmes
“Being here and learning the practices followed by schools in the city is helping us. One of the important things I will take back is the “circle-time” that the students here follow. I feel that our children will learn a lot from all this,” says Savita.
Circle-time is when the teacher and the students sit down and speak about their day, what they learnt during the day, what they would like to explore, and discuss anything they find interesting.
In terms of exposure and availability of infrastructure, the Ekal schools are rather behind. However, both Savita and Kamla are hoping to take back enough from the training programme to help their students.
Education, a tool for social change
Savita speaks about how there has been a shift in the way people in the village think. She narrates, “There was one girl student who was very keen to study, but she had an alcoholic father who not only stopped her but also made life difficult for everyone in the house.”
She continues, “A group of women from the village got together and intervened and ensured that they counselled not just the alcoholic father but also convinced the mother to let the child study.”
The child is now in class 8 and has been doing very well since.
A strong group consisting of the village women forms the Mahila Mandal. From solving personal issues to looking at larger social change, the women of the village are a formidable force.
“We have helped so many families–rehabilitated drunk men, helped families financially, and stopped child marriages,” she says.
Coming from a place riddled with superstitions, Savita narrates another incident, which furthers strengthened her belief in education. “A lady had been branded by her in-laws as a ‘witch’, and they had thrown her out of the house. With nowhere to go, the lady had given up on life. It took the entire Mahila Mandal to convince the in-laws otherwise.”
Both Savita and Kamla are very certain that educating children is the only way they can bring about social change. With such fierce ambassadors in these villages, the students sure are in good hands.
To know more about the schools, do visit their website.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)