For months, every time his father dropped him off at school, 6-year-old Ambhuj Mishra would try to escape the premises. He hated the idea of being confined in an unknown space, away from his parents.
So, to get him accustomed, his father, a factory worker, would miss almost four hours of work daily, to ensure his son stayed in class.
Today, the situation has changed completely. A student of Class 3, Ambhuj’s personality and attitude towards learning have undergone a complete change, thanks to the Shiv Nadar Foundation’s Shiksha programme in his local government school.
If not for Shiksha’s alternate and relevant approach to education, Ambhuj would have been among the many students in India who drop out of school.
Explaining this aspect, Shailendra Yadav, Shiksha's senior resource coordinator, says, “Among other reasons, students in these areas often drop out of school when they find the curriculum either dull or irrelevant and disconnected to their lives. Shiksha eliminates that through experiential and digital learning, intending to make high-quality education available in the remotest parts of the country.”
As a result of this, thousands of parents from various districts of UP have enrolled their children in government schools with Shiksha’s additional curriculum.
“Some had even come from private schools and were impressed by the quality of education provided in government schools, and that too, for free,” adds Shailendra.
In a country which is still battling illiteracy and the general preference of private schools over government ones, the Shiksha initiative in the last 7 years has achieved an inspiring feat, by ensuring zero dropouts since 2016.
“Shiksha began to collaborate with these schools from 2016, for a special additional curriculum for students of Class 1 and 2. And since then, we have not just witnessed a qualitative transformation among students and parents but also a quantitative one. For instance, in a government school in Sarai Dulha village, the number of students in Class 1 increased from 15 to 33, while Class 2 experienced a rise from 16 students to 35. Even children from neighbouring villages began to enroll here for this curriculum,” he shares.
In the last three years, owing to Shiksha’s efforts, each of these schools has churned out numerous stories of inspiration. Here are some of them:
1) Riya and Anshi Kumari
Riya and Anshi, sisters from Sarai Dulha village in Bulandshahr, used to study in a private school in the area. However, they had to leave after their father could not pay the fees due to financial constraints.
However, their parents were also hesitant to transfer them to a government school as they were sceptical about the quality of education there.
Owing to this confusion, they visited the local school and came across the Shiksha programme held for Class 1 and 2 students. Impressed by the facilities available at the school, they enrolled both their daughters there. While Riya is in Class 3 now, Anshi studies in Class 4.
“Their parents are farmers who also work as agricultural labourers in nearby fields to earn enough so that their children can have a better opportunity. Anshi and Riya know and appreciate this, despite their young age. They are extremely bright students, and have a promising future ahead,” adds Shailendra.
2) Ambhuj Mishra
Ambhuj joined the Shiksha programme in 2017, at Dadri, Gautam Budh Nagar. But his case was unique.
“When Ambhuj joined, it was difficult for him. His parents were factory workers who had come from Bihar. He was the 'new kid', and the unfamiliarity caused him a lot of distress, so he would run away at times. But, with time, patience and lots of care, the teachers and Shiksha instructors changed the scenario for good,” adds Shailendra.
Today, Ambhuj is a well-adjusted child and has emerged to be a fast learner and bright student, who regularly secures above-average marks in his examinations.
3) Gopal Yadav
Gopal, also from Sarai Dulha, joined the programme in Class 1, in 2017.
Speaking about his growth Shailendra adds, “He is a very clever boy with a keen interest in computer classes. His father, a farmer, works very hard and wants to give his son a better future. After the Shiksha programme, he was extremely impressed to see the change in his personality and his academics. What the curriculum essentially does is help children reach their best potential,” he says.
Shiksha initiative’s simple Information and Communication Technology (ICT)- based tutorials embellished with sound effects and music are one of the many elements that enhance children’s learning experience and make classes more interesting and relatable. The main objective is not just to help young minds grasp new concepts but also help them apply that knowledge to their lives.
The programme started by Shiv Nadar Foundation in 2012 aims to eradicate illiteracy from India, with the help of an easily replicable, scalable and measurable model. The programme has, so far, impacted 25,000 students in 500 schools across India.