Doosra Dashak, which literally means ‘second decade’, has been playing a stellar role in providing the right guidance, educational inputs, and skills to adolescents to make their lives more engaging and fulfilling.
In the Zulu and Khosa languages spoken in South Africa, the word ikhvelo means whistling. It is the sound made when a group of young people calls others by using a whistle or a drum to engage in constructive activities. So how does this word relate to India? Interestingly, for the Rajasthan-based NGO Doosra Dashak (DD), it has been adapted to create a model of ‘gathering around’ at the panchayat level to facilitate a culture of reading and learning amongst local adolescents and youth.
“Adolescence is a crucial time in life. And the challenges that come with it are all the more so grave when one is marginalised by society. This is where DD, engaged in activities in the hinterland of Rajasthan, plays a major role in making a difference to adolescent lives,” says Prince Salim, one of the project coordinators who have been involved with the organisation since its very inception.
Literally meaning the ‘second decade’, Doosra Dashak focuses on empowering those in the age group 11-19 years.
It identifies those children from remote areas of Rajasthan who have either dropped out of school or have never had the opportunity to attend a mainstream education system. They seek panchayat leaders and elderly individuals in villages to come forward and refer children who will benefit from their intervention. The organisation then speaks to the parents and helps them understand the benefits of education and skill-based training.
With residential camps and specialised training programmes that pan seven districts in Rajasthan, DD has worked with nearly 14,537 adolescents over the years.
Their work positively impacts not just the children, but also their parents, families and the immediate society. “Our four-month camps are dedicated to give them a holistic education that includes an understanding of democracy, secularism, gender equality and human rights besides the usual educational subjects,” says Salim. The NGO was founded in 2001 by the late Anil Bordia, a former Education Secretary of the Government of India. He was also responsible for initiating and implementing primary education projects called Lok Jumbish in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Bordia was recognised internationally for his pioneering work in the field of education and held many significant posts including Vice-Chair of UNESCO Institute for Education, Hamburg from 1976 to 1982 and Chairman of the International Bureau of Education, Geneva, from 1990 to 1992.
“He really set the foundation stone for many of the grassroots educational projects here. His wisdom and experience was unique and he showed this in his movement Lok Jumbish, which successfully transformed primary educations patterns in rural Rajasthan. However, he recognised that there was a dearth of opportunities for adolescents and that’s how he started Doosra Dashak,” Salim says.
The DD project was initially started in Bap, Jodhpur district and Kishanganj in Baran district, in June 2001. It is now being implemented in approximately 1,003 villages of 196 panchayats across seven districts in Rajasthan.
So what does the ikhvelo method of learning entail? “We have set up libraries and educational centres through all the seven districts. The youth are also encouraged to take up the Grade 5 or Grade 12 examination through certification from the National Institute of Open Schooling. Post their certification, we teach them skill-based activities which can help them sustain a livelihood,” says Salim. “We encourage the parents of these adolescents to come visit our training centres to witness first-hand the impacts of DD on their wards. Also, we have monthly parent-teacher meetings for the parents to understand how their child is progressing,” he adds.
The NGO has also initiated women-centric platforms, known as Mahila Samooh, in all the villages for the local women to gather around and seek advice.
“Women are the backbone of our society. If mothers recognise the value of having their kids educated and empowered, then a big hurdle is crossed. Our gender equality training helps women to be confident and be involved in society. The alumni of this NGO, both girls and boys, have gone on to become doctors, engineers, and sportspersons. One of the girls from our programme has also gone on to become a sarpanch,” adds Salim.
Doosra Dashak is currently being aided by the Tata Trust, Action Aid and UNICEF. The NGO’s offices are based in Pisangan, Ajmer; Bap, Jodhpur; Kishanganj, Baran; Bali, Pali; Desuri, Pali; Pindwara, Sirohi; Abu Road,Sirohi; Bassi, Jaipur; and Laxmangarh, Alwar. The organisation was recently featured by a Mumbai-based folk music group called Pravaah.
In their music video ‘Mukaam’, Doosra Dashak’s trainees are seen excelling in sports as well as being a valuable member to their school and family.
“Our song is about discovering oneself and being persistent in one’s efforts. For the video, we travelled to the interiors of Rajasthan where we found how, with limited resources, people are doing extraordinary things. We saw kids who are excelling in sports topping their class and overcoming disabilities, all this while living with so many constraints. It was heartening,” says Ankit Bareja, group member of Pravah.
(Written by Anju Narayanan)
For more information on Doosra Dashak, visit here.