Latha Rao, YFS Volunteer shares her experience of volunteering in a non-formal school and how it transformed the life of some young children. Read on to know more..
We have been running our non-formal school for the past 6 years and hundreds of kids have attended our school till date. Unlike other regular school children who wear nice uniforms and are escorted to the school by their parents or school bus, the children at our school have to come on their own or we teachers go and fetch them. They also carry their younger siblings along as both the parents go for work leaving the infants in the care of their elder siblings.
The students are mainly children of migrated laborers from north Karnataka, who came in search of job for their livelihood. They hardly care for the education of their children. This is really a pathetic situation in India. This is where non-formal schools like ours come into picture. These kids cannot attend regular schools as they have to take care of their siblings when their parents are away at work. So, we ask these children to bring their small siblings along to the school.
In the beginning of every academic year, we survey an area and check if there are any children who are not going to the regular school and need our help. And if we find any such children then we ask them to come to our non-formal school and convince their parents to send their kids to the school regularly. It requires a lot of patience, perseverance and hard work from volunteers during the first one month as it is very difficult to make the children come to the school regularly. Some children are afraid to come to the school as the whole environment is new for them and some kids are reluctant as they are used to spending their time roaming around lazily. But we as volunteers never give up and keep on trying until we bring these kids to the school. Once the children get used to the routine they start coming regularly to the school.
At our non-formal school we teach students reading and writing Kannada, mathematics, English, drawing and colouring to some extent. We also teach them some extracurricular activities like shlokas, songs, tell stories and also make them play some games. We feel really happy that children are doing something useful rather than spending their time idly.
But, our responsibility doesn’t end here. We can only give basic education in our non-formal school. Hence, it becomes our duty to see to that these children continue their education by admitting them to nearby regular government school. We consult their parents before joining their kids to the school and only upon their confirmation that they would stay in the same are for a long time without disturbing their kids’ education, we admit the child to nearby school. If parents say they are going back to their native shortly, we ask them to admit their kids to the school in their native place itself and we make them understand how important education is for their kids to lead a dignified life in future.
Sharanappa, a 7 year old boy came to our non-formal school along with his 2 year old small brother about 4 years back. He was very shy and good natured. He was very good in studies and other extracurricular activities like drawing. We admitted him to Uttara Halli government school in 2011. He was admitted to class 3. Now, he is in 6th standard and doing very well in the school. Teachers say he is very obedient and intelligent. He goes to the school regularly and never misses a single day. He bags prizes in all drawing competitions wherever he goes and makes the school proud. He participates in Chiguru programme, our annual cultural event every year and he wins prizes almost every year 🙂
Another girl called Ambika who is also studying in 6th standard in the same school used to come to our non-formal school about 3 years back. She had attended regular school in her native place earlier. But, she had to leave her school and come as her parents shifted here. She is very good in studies and has been admitted to English medium this year. Her sister and 3 more cousin brothers are also going to the same school and all are doing well. Another boy called Shivu, who is also from our non-formal school is studying in 9th standard now in the same government school. He is soft spoken, intelligent and very obedient.
Until now, we have admitted nearly 50-60 kids to regular government schools from our non-formal school. But unfortunately, not all the kids continue in the school and some of them go back to their native and we are not able to trace them. And few kids lose interest in studies as they reach adolescent age and they continue to struggle with even lower class syllabus.
Though many NGOs are working towards getting education for such children, many more kids are still left behind without any basic education. A lot more has to be done at the government level as the problem is very huge and cannot be solved at an individual or organization level.
YFS volunteer and co-ordinator for non-formal school
Edit credits: Sridhar Rajendran