“To create a world full of opportunities to fulfill a million dreams,” reads the vision of Milaan Fondation, the social development organization that I am currently working with. The founders believe that there is a need to educate, enable and empower children, especially the adolescents in marginalized communities. Accordingly, at present, two major projects run under the organization: Swarachna Inter College and the Girl Icon Program. Through these, Milaan invests in education, community activism, and leadership skills of adolescents to create leaders who in turn shall bring about social change.
Sitting in the balcony looking at the narrow roads in front of me, I saw an e-rickshaw pass by; followed by a human driven carrier – the one where a man pulls the rickshaw with force, carrying four individuals from one place to another. The idea that both have coexisted till date got me thinking about how, in an area that’s considered backward, coupled with prevailing caste dynamics, Milaan’s initiative, Swarachna Inter College has been thriving for the last ten years with a mission to empower children and open them up to the world of opportunities.
I started with a simple exercise of asking some senior students about their ten years of experience at the school. Their responses were mostly similar. The quality of education imparted has gotten better from where it had started. There were some ups and downs, during which the quality curve had declined only to pick up in recent years. Several new activities, competitions, and workshops have been added to the curriculum. Variations of art and craft, theater, singing, dancing, and even life-skill workshops have helped the students in a great way. Such activities have constantly pushed them to dream of the future because only if they dream, will there be a space to accept opportunities to fulfill those dreams.
Coming to the education system in India, from what I understand, it is faced with three major challenges:
- Socialization and cultural assimilation: Socialization encompasses formal and informal training through various social institutions like family, peer group, and community. This is a slow process in the rural set up. Education, in its formal sense is not valued much among people here in villages of Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh.
- Dualism in the education system: Indian education system has a huge gap between private and government schools. The former works towards the goal of achieving provision of quality education while the latter aims at better accessibility of education for all. The gap is further widened because private schools charge a fee for the service provided while the government schools have minimal or no fee.
- The prevailing gender gap: The normalization of gender roles, which is women being delegated the household sphere and men being delegated the public sphere has an impact on the boy-girl ratio at schools. Education is relatively considered necessary for boys who in future will earn for the family, while it is of no importance to girls because their duty, after all, is to look after her children and other members of the family.
Let us take a look at how Milaan aims at doing its bit for betterment of the system. While educating, enabling, and empowering are a direct reflection of the organization’s philosophy, it is aware that schooling is a process of socialization where children form new ideas and strengthen their notions as well as perceptions about their world. The teachers, who are their role models, shape their ideology.
In Swarachna, there are different types of syllabus series that have been experimented with. After analyzing the results from each, NCERT syllabus is being followed till class 8. Citing recent examples while gaining theoretical knowledge plays an important role in understanding a topic thoroughly. Workshops like ‘Mera Life, Mera Faisla’ which have been conducted at Swarachna School push children to recognize the importance of education and how it helps them shape their future. It also enables them to ‘Think Big’.
Milaan believes that education must provide knowledge which can develop abilities and skills of the disadvantaged children and youth so that they become capable of going out, recognizing the opportunities and grasp them as well.
They should also be able to create new opportunities for themselves. At school, facilities for sports have been provided and at several occasions, students have had the chance to go out of the village and learn. Swarachna is a low-cost private school. Additionally, they also provide scholarships for meritorious students, those with high attendance, and with extremely weak financial background. All these provisions increase the accessibility to education. This merges the aims of private and government schools, which are quality education and increased accessibility to education, and hence increases enrollment.
As a part of this school, there is this sense of pride in seeing your school student helping other children in the community, with academics.
The change is in its initial phase with Milaan. The impact cannot be fully assessed right away. It will take time for the children and adolescents to grow and act upon their conscience. The values taught would be a part of them which will be seen as ‘change’ in the community. This change in turn will drive them to think about several pressing issues and push them towards a better world.
This is a good blog to put it in their website also.