In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 500,mostly illiterate, women have saved, with the support of Aide et Action, more than 3,000 marginalized and vulnerable children from dropping out of school. A true educational success story for children, this Aide et Action programme also enables women to learn and become agents of change in society.
In the two districts of Alirajpur and Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh state, India, children’s education is not a priority. The literacy rate there is among the lowest in India, school enrolment remains extremely poor, especially for girls, and teacher absenteeism is notorious. To better understand the importance of education, the Aide et Action teams came up with the idea of calling on members of the community who are known as “vectors of change”. “Most of them are women,” explains Ravi Pratap Singh, International Programme Director, Aide et Action International. “Faced with numerous droughts and climatic disasters in their villages, men left to seek employment in the cities, leaving the management of the villages to the women. We are supporting them in this new mission, we train them, give them self-confidence and thus make them more autonomous and active within Indian society”.
Avoid giving up school and dropouts
“These women are generally illiterate themselves, however, they know how to manage a family, take care of children, they are wise and very active in society. Most are members of women’s and mothers’ groups and they are very involved in social issues, “adds Pravin Bhope, member of the Aide and Action team in South Asia. Once selected, these women receive training. Their mission: to create a bond and trust between teachers, parents of students, and the children themselves. They go to schools, classes, meet parents, participate in school governance, and discuss with authorities so that everyone understands the importance of education, the difficulties and the objectives to be achieved for that there is no more absenteeism or dropping out… But with the COVID-19 pandemic, their mission has taken on another dimension. “During the first lockdown, all schools in the village were closed. Parents immediately asked children to take care of the animals in the fields, I was very worried, I feared that many children would drop out of school and never come back. So I went door-to-door to convince parents to take the children with me and recreate a learning centre to conduct reading or review activities. I started with 5 students and in less than two months there were 18, “says Jangudi Bai, an “Agent of Change “.
Like Jangudi, nearly 500 of them have ensured this educational continuity in 300 centres and with more than 3,000 children during lockdown. A feat that they achieved only with their own motivation and easy-to-use educational material, adapted to their level, prepared by the Aide et Action teams. Faced with such a success, teachers themselves got involved and came to lend a hand during lockdown by offering children more educational activities. This success was not lost on Madhya Pradesh state authorities, that institutionalized the presence of mothers’ committees in school management committees in order to have “a more holistic view of child development.” Since the end of lockdown, these agents of change continue their mission in nearly 125 learning centres in 90 villages. “The Aide et Action programme raised awareness among entire communities. In the event of another lockdown, the vectors of change will now easily be able to ensure pedagogical continuity, particularly at the primary level. The material created by the Aide et Action teams is now used in all government-created childcare centres and helps strengthen the language and numeracy skills of thousands of young children,” concludes Pravin Bhope.