Support My School Campaign
Seva Mandir is working together with Coca Cola, CAF, UN Habitat, Sulabh, TATA, Pearson Fund and NDTV, in the Support My School Campaign. The campaign has been focusing on 5 different components; clean drinking water, sanitation, rainwater harvesting, green surroundings, and creating a playground. In addition to this, books have also been added to the library.
The work has been carried out in 8 schools within Seva Mandir’s working area, and the first stage of the campaign, the installment and physical construction, finished in July 2012. Since then an evaluation process about the success of the work has been carried out, and Seva Mandir has facilitated a platform where the government and the village can meet and discuss the challenges, progress and future strategies.
On the 29th of January, an unveiling ceremony was held at one of the schools in the village of Saru. Attending the ceremony was students and staff from the school, the village council, and representatives from the government as well as from Coca-Cola, Seva Mandir and other stakeholders.
During the ceremony, the results of the group discussions were presented, mentioning the status, issues and suggestions for improvement regarding quality of education, cleanliness and sanitation, and status of common property and resources. Presenting the key points was representatives from the village community, a student group and a group formed by women and girls.
Some of the issues that were raised:
- Educational problems
- There are not enough teachers. At the moment there are no teachers for math, science, English or computers.
- No science lab
- Village hamlets are remote, with no means of transportation to get to schools
- Parents are not aware of the right to education, and have little to no understanding for their children’s education and cannot help with homework
- Economical pressure on children, with migration for labor or domestic work as a result
- Child marriages still occur
- Buildings and rooms are damaged
- Sanitation/cleanliness problems
- No toilets at home
- Quality and quantity of toilets in schools
- Lack of water, long distance to get it
- Because the water is fetched from afar, there is a reluctance to use it
- Because of lack of water, there is an increase of infections and diseases
The two main suggestions for improvement were more teachers in the schools, and better and more transportation for the children to be able to reach the schools.
The lowered quality of education because of the lack of teachers has been very visible over the last year. In 2009-10 the number of graduates was 31%, in 2010-11 increased to 66%, but in 2011-12 it dropped down to as low as 5%. Children might be enrolled, but there is a large number not attending.
Ms. Priyanka Singh represented Seva Mandir and held a speech after the presentations of the group discussions. She mentioned the importance of a platform and space for the different stakeholders to come together to discuss and act upon the problems. Seva Mandir acts as a bridge between the people, the government and the private sector. While the private sector have the possibility to contribute with money towards improvements, and the government have policies and the infrastructure to make way for them, it is the civil society that can mobilise people and do the actual work. Seva Mandir has the experience and capacity and can with it’s connection to the people manage work and create aspirations to get things done.
Ms. Priyanka Singh requested that all the stakeholders do their part and encourage a space for people to work. Although the discussions had been highlighting the challenges regarding the school and education, Ms. Priyanka Singh also stressed the importance of that now we need to think beyond the school. 95% of the households in the village of Saru don’t have toilets at home, and before that issue is addressed, we cannot expect cleanliness to improve just through sanitations in the schools. Seva Mandir has done experiments with dry toilets, and with the support of the government and the private sector, now they could be installed in many homes.
She also suggested that Seva Mandir could start special learning camps for the four main subjects that the secondary students are missing teachers for. She said that it is important that the government takes responsibility too; while 30% of children are still out school in this village, of the 70% that are in school, 1/3 of the students are attending schools run by Seva Mandir, and 2/3 are going to government schools.
Coca-Cola said that the 5 main components that had been performed in the schools are perhaps not enough to improve the quality of education, but it is a start along the way, and that through this they will build a relationship with the school and the local community. While building the facilities is one thing, the management of them will be the biggest challenge, and it is important that the community takes responsibility for it.
Along with the presentation and speeches different types of entertainment were held, and also a ceremony where recently graduated girls were given bicycles, in encouragement for future girls to attend and remain in schools.
As the event went on more and more people turned up, which seems like a very positive sign that the community indeed is very interested and involved. We hope they will stay involved and that the villages together with Seva Mandir and the other stakeholders can continue to collaborate for a brighter future.