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Introduction

Life in Indian slums is dominated by a vicious cycle of poverty and disinterest towards education. The limited availability of livelihood and opportunities for skill building have created a cobweb around the lives of the slum dwellers, most of whom are migrants and usually work as daily wage labourers. As a result, most of them do not have any goals or aspirations in life apart from ensuring their daily meal. Further, slums are also the breeding ground of crimes and wrongdoings, engendering from their continuous resentment to government apathy. The wards of these migrants often spend their time in wasteful activities like rag picking and pilferage, consuming easily available drugs or aimlessly wandering in the area.

We at Eklavya realized that this impasse in slum dwellers’ lives can only be broken by providing their children a fair chance to change their lives – a chance which only ‘quality’ education can provide. We found that while many individuals and institutions were already working towards educating underprivileged children in slums in and around the Delhi-NCR region, most of them focussed only on non-formal education. Given the context, we realized that the solution lies in imparting ‘quality’ education along with providing constant all-round support. This would help slum children get acquainted to the formal education system, helping them realize their dream of being at par with children who have such opportunities.

Thus, the journey of Eklavya started six years ago with the focus on slum children getting basic education for a year or two to be educationally at par with children of their age group, to help them become a part of formal education system. Since its inception, Eklavya has operated from the Prempuri slums of Jharsa village in Gurgaon, Haryana. The school was founded on the philosophy that ‘quality’ education, along with all-round development, could provide slum dwellers a fair chance to change their lives in a meaningful way.

Activity Report for FY 17–18

Eklavya focuses on the all-round development of children so that they can derive maximum benefit from the education that is being imparted to them. Hence, all the initiatives of the school are aligned towards creating an ecosystem for providing sustainable learning for the children. The school was established when we started teaching three siblings, aged 7, 5 and 4, who used to pick rags near a liquor shop. After coaching for one year, we got them admitted to a public school. Since then, the school has been continually taking steps to ensure that the slum’s kids are able to fulfil their dreams.

The key activities and initiatives of the school are presented below:

  • Providing education

Currently, more than 500 children are enrolled at the school. Our team of 22 qualified and motivated teachers guide these children. The school currently operates in three shifts (8:00 a.m.–1:30 p.m., 3:00 p.m.– 6:00 p.m., and 6:30 p.m.– 8:30 p.m.). We continuously track the progress of the students. 25 of our students who had shown a keen interest in studies and demonstrated academic competence were selected for enrolment in a formal English-medium school in 2017-18. While attending the school, these students continue to attend afternoon/evening classes at Eklavya. We continuously monitor their performance in school through interactions with school officials, and hold advanced or remedial classes for the students depending on their performance. We also provide school uniforms, books, stationery, bicycles for transportation (to those who need them), etc. Further, the 6:30 p.m.– 8:30 p.m. classes focus on preparation for higher education. Keeping in mind the fact that girls in slums contend with a highly non-conducive environment to education, we have initiated voluntary night classes for girls, conducted by a female teacher, to ensure that they don’t give up on their education.

Setting up our formal school

We are now transitioning from being a “bridge-school” to an all-day school model to engage with the children in more meaningful ways.

  • On-boarded an ex-teacher of Doon School to lead the initiative
  • Acquired a new premise on rent, undertook painting/ whitewashing and procured required infrastructure (whiteboard, fans, lights, books, laptop, etc.)
  • Started formal classes for around 200 kids across six classes (Pre Nursery , nursery to Class 2) who are taught by seven teachers
  • Trained the teachers on ‘Outcome-based Learning’ methodology in partnership with Magnify
  • Adapted modified NCERT syllabus for providing structured education to the kids; similarly, kids also get to learn from educational videos and rhymes from YouTube
  • Provided uniforms and winter clothing to the kids
  • Regularly conduct ‘activity-based’ sessions, playgroup and outdoor learning sessions
  • Installed CCTV cameras to ensure the safety and security of the kids

We also conduct parent-teacher meetings on a regular basis to apprise the parents about their kids’ progress and developmental areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Promoting extracurricular activities

The children are taught vocal and instrumental music by volunteers. We have enrolled two kids in a music training institute. We also conduct periodic programs on drawing and painting, singing and dancing, and games and sports to provide a platform for the children to learn to display their skills and to develop holistically. Eklavya School won the Silver Medal in the recently organized Football Tournament (Khel Yatra 2017) in Gurgaon. The tournament featured 16 schools for underprivileged kids from Delhi-NCR.

We also regularly invite individuals of repute to the school to engage with students on various opportunities that are available to them for pursuing their various passions. Till date, we have conducted more than 150 such sessions on sports, mountaineering, dramatics, singing, dancing, painting, quizzing, etc.

  • Online learning through Project Drona

Project Drona was conceived as a special project by Eklavya Trust to connect online teaching volunteer communities globally with underprivileged schools across India. Till date, Project Drona has connected 10 schools for underprivileged children with 20 online volunteers. The project currently has the following components:

 

 

 

 

 

  • Personality development, communication and life-skills coachingThis component of Project Drona helps children develop their personality and improve their command over the English language through dedicated educators who guide and help them in understanding their strengths and weaknesses. We cover subjects and issues that are relevant to the kids but are not covered in the formal school curriculum. These include health and sanitation, sex education, spoken English and personality development, positive thinking, motivation, navigating away from bad influences, career counselling, drug abuse and mentoring, moral values, etc.
  • Curriculum-focused coachingMath and science classes are conducted by the educators with the help of the online learning portal —www.geniuscorner.com, a site which has specific topic-wise content material. Such coaching helps in the analysis of the students’ understanding of concepts and aids in developing customized learning plans. The portal also provides scope for the individual assessment of every student.
  • Mentorship programThis component comprises one-on-one online discussions between mentor and mentee on various challenges faced by students in their surroundings, including the school and family environment. In addition, the child’s specific needs, dreams and aspirations are identified and discussed through interactions between the mentor and the student’s parent, local guardian, etc.
  • Providing medical assistanceWe place tremendous emphasis on hygiene, nutrition and health, and teach the children the importance of cleanliness, exercise and diet. We have partnered with some doctors and NGOs which conduct free medical camps once every six months. We, in partnership with these doctors and NGOs, also provide medicines and nutritional supplements to the children.
  • Activities with leading organizations

Mr. Gautam Kumra (Managing Director, McKinsey India) along with other partners (Mr. Puneet Chandok, Mr. Suvojoy Sengupta, Mr. Sasi Sunkara) support Eklavya in multiple capacities. Mr. Kumra also visited the school to celebrate Independence Day 2017 with the kids. On a regular basis, the children learn music, painting and theatre at McKinsey’s Gurgaon office. One of the leaders Mr Vishal Malik from McKinsey India teaches guitar to kids on a regular basis. The kids have given live performances at McKinsey’s “Value Day”.

Similarly, Deloitte has been partnering with Eklavya for its Impact Day celebrations for the last six years. Leaders from Deloitte like Ms. Manjula Banerjee, Mr. Jitendar Agarwal, Mr. Jaideep Bhargava, Mr. Shubhranshu Patnaik, Mr. Vinesh Jain and Mr. Rohinton Sidhwa are associated with Eklavya.

  • Food and clean water

To ensure that the children get at least one square meal a day, we have started offering food to all the children who attend our morning classes. For this purpose, we have partnered with Rasoi on Wheels, an NGO that offers food on the go to the underprivileged, to provide nutritious food to the children. While this is currently being done on an ad-hoc basis, we hope to make this a daily offering very soon. We have also arranged for a commercial RO purifier and water cooler in our school to provide access to clean water.

  • Drug-free childhood campaign

Drugs are a huge menace that plague the lives of children in slums. To raise awareness about the harmful effects of drugs, we trained the children to perform a skit and recorded it. We showed this video to children in nearby areas to help them understand the detrimental effect of drug abuse.

  • General knowledge and ethics sessions

We conduct regular sessions on general knowledge, cultural awareness and moral science to ensure the holistic growth and development of the children.

  • Periodic review of teachers

To make learning an interactive process at Eklavya, we hold regular feedback sessions with the kids. Further, regular tests for teachers are conducted to ensure that teachers are always up to date with their learning and pedagogic practices. We are in the process of institutionalizing a formal evaluation mechanism for teachers with clearly defined KRAs and KPIs.