Summer Camp In West Bengal


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Summer Camp by Pratham Bengal in July 2008

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Summer Camp In West Bengal

  1. 1. Summer Camp in West Bengal One month long summer camps were organized in the month of July, 2008, in Purulia and South Dinajpur districts of West Bengal, where the Read India Campaign or Chalo Padhi Abhijan as it is known here, of Pratham Mumbai Education Initiative is running in full swing. The purpose of Read India Campaign is, to improve the quality of primary education to stem the high drop out rate in the middle school. The summer camps were started on an experimental basis in two districts of West Bengal and if successful would be replicated in the rest of the districts. The avowed purpose was to spread awareness regarding the campaign and to generate human resources—one of the essential prerequisites for the successful completion of the programme. The modus operandi was to raise volunteers from amongst the locals, who in turn will conduct surveys of 6-14 year old children in their respective localities. The backward-most amongst the lot will be selected and each volunteer will be assigned to teach 20-25 such children.For this purpose the volunteers will be given materials like alphabet charts, number charts, after a three-day training workshop. The centres will be monitored by Pratham team, so that no laxity creeps in. In Purulia, three blocks were short listed for the programme. These are Manbazar-I, Kashipur and Jhalda. The latter incidentally, is the most backward block in the entire country. The panchayats covered by this programme are Manbazar, Barameswar Ramnagar, Jitujuri, Bhalubasha, Dhanara, Kamta Jangiteri, Gopal Nagar, Bamni Majhihira, Chandra Payara Cheli and Bisiri (in Manbazar-I block); Kashipur, Shimla Dhanera and Barora (Kashipur block); Chitmur, Hirapur-Adardi and Noatu 1
  2. 2. (Jhalda block). In South Dinajpur, Goalpokhar-I block was chosen as the field. Three panchayats of this block were zeroed in—Goalpokhar, Jaingaon and Dharampur-II. Teething problems were galore—from arranging accommodation to searching high and dry for cooking fuels. But keeping aside self-comfort in the back-burner, the Pratham team plunged headlong into the task assigned to them with dedication, grit and determination. They were determined not to be cowed down by adversities. The first step was mobilization of volunteers and students—the two essential ingredients for the summer camp. Pratham team members fanned the blocks, trying to convince the local administration and the people of the importance of the camp. Experiences varied—from unstinted support to disbelief and mistrust. In Jamgaria village of Gopalnagar panchayat in Manbazar-I block, the team members held prolonged discussions with the village elders, trying to impress upon them the importance of education and the viability of such a camp. After animated discussions with the panchayat members, it was decided that a demo class will be held where the villagers will have a first-hand experience of the teaching techniques of Pratham. Posters of ASER were put up at prominent locations. After the demo class, however, things turned for the better. With the initial skepticism of the villagers being taken care of, the road ahead looked somewhat smoother. In Kashipur block also, similar demo classes had to be arranged to convince the locals as also the administration of the aims and objectives of the camp. A demo class with 35 students was organized at the main market of Kashipur block. Apart from that, a door-to-door campaign was also carried out to convince the parents. The panchayat pradhan of Barora gram panchayat of this block extended all possible help to make the endeavour a success. However, the experience of Jhalda block is different, since here no demo classes were needed. The panchayat did not need much coaxing. Here word of mouth convinced 2
  3. 3. the pradhan of the credibility of the project and he himself took the initiative to generate volunteers for the camp. Goalpokhar presented an all together different picture. Here language posed a major problem, since the mother tongue of a large chunk of population is Urdu. Hence communicating with them posed a major problem. The first three days yielded no result. Demo classes were organised on a regular basis. But the turn-out was very low. Pratham members went from door to door, trying to convince the people. The local administration, too, were apprehensive at the beginning. In Jaingaon block, the panchayet pradhan made the Pratham team wait for nearly 4 hours before asking them to come another day. However, the never-say-die attitude of the team paid off. Slowly volunteers started to trickle in. Even a 14 year-old boy came forward to volunteer. The locals realized that although Urdu is their mother tongue, they need to learn Bengali for their day-to-day activities. THE PROCESS: Raising volunteers was the first phase. In all, in Kashipur block, Kashipur panchayat generated 22 volunteers, Shimla Dhanera accounted for 24 volunteers, Barora panchayat raised 22 volunteers. In Manbazar-I, 22 volunteers could be raised for Gopalnagar panchayat, 24 volunteers for Manbazar panchayat and 17 for Bhalubasha panchayat. In South Dinajpur, Goalpokhar block accounted for 34 volunteers, Jaingaon for 29 and Dharmapur-II for 41. Training workshops were then arranged where the volunteers were acquainted with the ways and means to educate the children through stories and games. This will make the children more receptive to education, since studies will no longer be limited to books but will encompass story sessions and play sessions. Once the training was over, 3
  4. 4. the volunteers went back to their respective localities to conduct surveys amongst 6-14 year old kids in their localities and identify the most backward. After the completion of this second phase, centres were started with 20-25 kids under the supervision of each volunteer. However, numbers varied, since in some areas number of volunteers fell short of the number of centres, whereas in some others it was the other way around with number of volunteers exceeding the number of centres. For example, in Gopalnagar panchayat, there were 22 volunteers for 28 centres, whereas in Jhalda block there were 95 volunteers for 90 centres. In Dharmapur II, also there were 41 volunteers for 34 centres. That the Pratham team succeeded in carrying the message of education to the grass-root level is evident from the number of students who attended the centres. In Shimla-Dhanera panchayat there were 392 students in 24 centres, whereas in Jhalda 1943 students crowded 90 centres. In Goalpokhar, there were 751 children in 34 centres, in Jaingaon 668 children attended 29 centres and in Dharmapur II, 34 centres catered to 821 children. The process of learning through fun was a resounding success. The children loved the games and the story sessions. As the team members recollect after their return to Kolkata, the children used to crowd their houses right from the mornings, egging them to innovate new games. It was a learning process for the team also. One of the games devised by the team Word Game. Here, the children were given Bengali words and were asked the synonyms in their own dialect or language. Education to these kids was so long limited to absentee teachers, torn books, while some were yet to see the light of education. Pratham opened a new world to them. Seeing the enthusiasm of the target- group, the team members decided to organize Shishu Mela or Children’s Fairs, where the children were given free hand to unleash their expertise, be it in sports, singing, 4
  5. 5. recitation, dance or painting. Light snacks were arranged. This became an instant hit with the children. THE SOFT EFFECT: One month flew away in a jiffy. And when it was time to pack-up, there were tears in the eyes of the children; they were unwilling to let go their dadas and didis. On the day of departure they crowded the houses of the team members, with small tokens like flowers. The local administration and the parents, too, were keen to know when Pratham will return to their villages with a prolonged, sustained programme of education and promised all possible help. Thus with a mixed feeling—sadness at having to leave areas where they received so much unadulterated love as also happiness that they could overcome hurdles and make the programme a success—the Pratham team returned to Kolkata, more determined to make the campaign a resounding success. However, the programme could have been more successful had nature and some other insurmountable difficulties, not played spoilsport. Although christened as summer camp, the programme was held in the midst of monsoon. Hence rain often disrupted the proceedings of those centres held in open airs. Moreover, communication in the districts being pathetic, it was difficult to move from place to place which often proved detrimental to the smooth functioning of the programme. Language, too, posed a problem in both the districts since the team members found it difficult to follow the local dialect in Purulia whereas in South Dinajpur, Urdu was completely out of bounds for the team. For example in Purulia guava is known as anjir, while a hill is called dungri. This being the first year, it is not expected that the homework would be full-proof. Pratham will learn from the mistakes of this camp and will strive to excel in its future endeavours. That the programme achieved in striking a chord with the locals is the 5
  6. 6. crowning glory of this camp. And therein lays its success. It is hoped that this success will be repeated in other districts of West Bengal and in other states of India. THE QUANTITATIVE EFFECT: Summer Camp in West Bengal DATA FROM GOALPOKHOR-l,Manbazar- l,Kashipur and Jhgalda-ll BLOCKS (6-11 years Arithmatic (6-11 years ) ) :Children who can Baseline Finaltest do; Percent Percent Subtraction 1.4 7.4 Addition 1.8 10.8 Num recog 21-100 14.5 29.0 Num recog 1-20 27.9 38.1 Nothing 54.5 14.7 Total percentage 100% 100% Total children 6809 6809 tested (6-11 (6-11 years) READING: Children years) who can do; Baseline Finaltest percent Percent Story 0.0 2.1 Paragraph 0.0 3.2 Word 1.4 30.2 Letter 41.8 48.7 Nothing 56.8 15.9 Total percentage 100% 100% Total children 6817 6817 tested  No of Volunteers:-291  No of Children:-6817  No of Village Covered:-275  No of Panchayat Covered:-12  No of Block Covered:-4  No of District Covered:-2 --------------------------------------------------- 6