“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and the world better than you found it”
– Martin Wright Edelman
Across several districts in Odisha, the kids rise and shine much before the school bell rings. They are all excited and pumped up as they make their way towards their village’s own learning center. The best part is that they don’t have to walk kilometers to reach these centers, as they are located right in the villages.
As the kids leave their homes, a woman from one of the villages, also a Mentor at Thinkzone gets ready early too, revisiting the lesson plan and preparing herself for the activities she is going to do with the kids today. Soon after, when everyone arrives, the work at the center begins. The kids are first grouped according to their learning levels. A range of activities is selected which are to be conducted using fun videos, images, quizzes. These are decided by the mentor as per the lesson plan. The next one hour is a mix of playing and learning where they collectively have fun but take a lesson back home every day.
It’s heartwarming to see the activities in such centers with kids either huddled around the mentor who is engaging them in interactive learning activities on tablets or glancing at the pictures of fruits, vegetables and other things out of General Knowledge books put up as graphic charts on the wall. Brainstorming sessions are conducted with kids as they solve puzzles or play with building blocks from Thinkzone’s school-in-a-box, an innovative solution using offline technology with proprietary teaching activity tools.
These centers are now the education hubs for those kids who are either in their primary grade or in their early childhood. Once in a while, the teachers/mentors also talk to the parents and understand their concern, while also giving them a report of what their kids have been taught. These centers at the village level are known to be Thinkzone’s learning centers. With this innovative idea, Thinkzone, a social enterprise in Rural Odisha, has been revamping the level of education in the region.
In the past, there was no alternative to public education. What is imparted in schools here is not monitored. A traditional approach is still continued. The high dropout rates in Odisha as well as in India show that the existing system is falling behind and that it badly needs an upgrade.
Thinkzone, with its programs is bringing in this much-needed upgrade. These learning centers open up earlier in the morning, before schools start and also re-open in the evening after school hours. Here, the focus is on Activity Based Learning and Digital Based Learning. The enterprise is making education fun for the kids at these centers, so that they just don’t memorize things that they read or are taught but also understand as well as are able to utilize this information in the real world.
At the same time, this program is also trying to solve Gender Inequity. The problem is evidently present in this region, specially in rural households where women struggle every day for acceptance and recognition. A number of them get their educational degrees but do not have an opportunity to work and contribute financially in order to achieve an equal status.
Thinkzone’s mentor program promotes a woman from a village to run her own center. Entrepreneurship is not just a dream but a reality in more than 80 centers. These women are provided with as much help and resources from the organization but at the end of the day, it is their hard work and passion that results in their centers becoming successful. Several mentors are now independent and are making their own decisions. Some of them are also able to sponsor their own education fee while running their centers.
The organization has spread its wings even in the remotest of the villages, in the districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara, Ganjam, and Bhadrak. The kids who have enrolled for the program including those who were just completing their class V in school, didn’t even know how to solve mathematics problems or how to introduce themselves in English. However, with the intervention of our teachers in their centers, there has been a significant change. The level of confidence among kids has also boosted up due to peer-learning sessions.
A lot of work is yet to be done. One of the initiatives is to involve parents in the education process of their children and that work is currently in progress. The system involves all the stakeholders by making them believe that it is for their own good and it can bring change from the traditional system. Monthly meetings and training sessions are conducted to make sure the quality doesn’t get compromised.
A change is necessary for the education space of rural Odisha. Thinkzone is on its way to do just that…