Tribal children in India face several challenges in completing primary education. According to India government, 58% rate of dropout among tribal children at primary school is much more than that of non-tribal children at 37%. While children are equally affected by poorly provisioned and ill-functioning schools as children from other communities, one key aspect that has been less explored is the language and cultural difference.
To address these issues, Aide et Action initiated the ‘Ensuring Quality Education with Ecological Sensitization (EQEES)’ project in the year 2013 in Balaghat, a district in Madhya Pradesh predominantly populated with tribal communities. The key intervention has been the Anandghar (Happy Home), or supplementary learning centers, which are presently operational in 77 primary schools. True to its name, Anandghar emphasizes creating a joyful environment in the classroom through facilitating teaching-learning based on activity-based learning, games, poems, songs and teaching-learning materials.
To serve the widely spread out villages, the project adopted the model of mobile libraries where traveling librarians visit the Anandghars during the morning hours. They carry a carefully selected box of 20 children’s books. Most of the books are graded as per reading levels, meant for early readers, and a large number of them have children from villages and rural contexts.
The librarians conduct a variety of activities in schools besides issuing books. Children enjoy these sessions a lot and look forward to the librarian’s visits. Other than school visit, librarians organize open library sessions for the community to gain their interest. Once a week, all library coordinators converge in one village where storytelling by the coordinator, singing folk songs, folk stories and puzzles are encouraged.
By encouraging activities like role-play with stories, they have made children confident in expressing and talking in their own language in the classroom. Parents and grandparents are invited to discuss the need for education in the school, the importance of supporting children at home, and to ensure that every child attends school to learn how to write and read these songs and much more.
This activity thus become a complement to community mobilization for improving children’s attendance that is undertaken by Anandghar volunteers. While many education programs are helping children through supportive learning centers, what made this intervention program different is the micro-innovations in bridging learning in school and the community.
The effort has succeeded in providing opportunities to tribal children to not only learn the school language and become proficient in it but also connecting them with their own language and culture.