Enabling Inclusive Education
E-Literacy for Tribal Communities
AmritaCREATE, under a grant from DeitY is training 1000 tribal youth in basic Computer Skills and Health Awareness, directly in the remote tribal belts of Idukki, Attapadi and Wayanad.The tablets take technology to their doorstep, ensuring that the programme covers the tribal belt that otherwise has no access to computers and sometimes even electricity. With this, students who have never seen computers are becoming literate in computers, mainly using tablets as the medium of instruction and learning. The different modules in local language give them a distinct advantage in the job market, as they become adept in using Word and the Internet.
NIELIT’s online exams are conducted with tablets connected to a laptop without Internet. The Health and Social Awareness Programme, developed by Amrita focuses on pressing issues regarding tribals,namely Alcohol and substance abuse , awareness about Malnutrition, Health and Sanitation, Clean Drinking Water, etc.
The training has been deployed in areas such as hostels for tribal dropout girls run by the Mahila Samakhya, Nirbhaya Centres- run by the Social Welfare Board for sexually abused girls, Tribal Schools and Tribal villages. Those who successfully complete the program are awarded Course Completion Certificates.
By Dec 2015, more than 500 tribals have been trained. The participants have shown a marked increase in the level of social awareness and knowledge and mastery over the computer. The Computer Awareness modules were taught to tribals who had no previous exposure to computers. They now have a distinct advantage in school and in the job market.
Of all students in India enrolled in Std.5, about half cannot read a Std. 2 textbook. About 40% of Std 3 students cannot recognize numbers up to 100. Keeping this in mind, Amrita Education Centers start with elementary level assessments of all children who attend the education center, place them at the level they are and start tutoring them from that level. The tablet is an effective tool that bridges the gap in learning easily and painlessly. Children learn through games and repeated practice.
Amrita Education Centers are currently providing free after-school tutoring, benefitting children in 41 rural centers in 21 states of India. Amrita RITE- Rural India Tablet- enhanced Education, the technology-driven educational program is based on tablets and hands-on methods that motivate children to learn at their own pace.
Amrita RITE uses special software to speed writing and language development including learning letters and words by tracing directly on the tablet, and an “Immersion” speaking and reading course that teaches by pictures, and is self-correcting. The software has been deployed in nine languages.
Parent-Teacher meetings are held every first Sunday of the month. The teacher discusses children’s progress and addresses any concerns. Regular assessments are conducted every three months in Math, and Reading and Writing in the regional language and English, to measure progress.
Teachers are given regular month-long training sessions. They are also made aware of government schemes that they can avail to promote education in their local area. For example, in Rajasthan, funds were made available to repair the local village school. In places like Gujarat, applications have been submitted to upgrade the local school to high school level so that girls can receive a higher education.
Bringing Dropouts Back to School
Studies show that close to 70% of students in India drop out before they reach grade 10. Back-to-school programs are specifically designed to help schools dropouts learn at a fast pace, and bridge the learning gap so that they can resume their studies where they left off.
The intervention involves:
- Identifying school dropouts in the village
- Providing expedited instruction in reading, writing and math
- Ensuring that students return to school
- In Valaramkunnu Village, Wayanad, boys and girls who roamed the hills without going to school are being given an education and sent back to school.
- In Chhattisgarh, boys engaged in brick-work have currently been enrolled in IGNOU.
- In our Rajasthan village of Harirampura, girls are now encouraged to avail the same right to education as boys.
Improving School Attendance
Attendance in schools in rural areas is a grave problem with daily attendance as low as 50% in some states. Children are not motivated to attend schools due to a lack of basic amenities like clean toilets and teacher absenteeism. Amrita RITE helps children develop an interest towards learning through tablet based applications. Students show increased attendance, more motivation and better comprehension even after a short time in the program. RITE partners with the local schools where the children in our adopted village go, making sure that our children have increased attendance and become lifelong learners.
Children who miss school frequently can fall behind. When a child attends school on a regular basis, they take an important step towards reaching their full potential, and are given the opportunity to learn new things and develop their skills. The more time a child spends around other children, whether in the classroom or as part of a school team, the more chance they have of making friends and feeling included, boosting social skills, confidence and self esteem.
Vidyamritam Scholarships for education are provided by M.A. Math for impoverished children whose families cannot meet educational expenses.
All qualifying students at the Amrita Education Center receive Vidyamritam scholarships provided by the M.A. Math. The scholarships benefit underprivileged children whose families find it difficult to meet the expenses of continued education.
Vidyamritam started in 2007 in response to an epidemic of farmer suicides throughout the country and through it, 51,000 children aged 9 to 16 years are currently receiving scholarships in the form of a monthly stipend until they finish their education. Amma said at the time, “Yet another generation should not become slaves of emotional weakness like suicide, Rather than that, they should understand that they need to develop self confidence. The future generation should have the mental strength to face life’s challenges.” This existing initiative of the M.A. Math was extended to include children from the 101 adopted villages, after the launch of the 101 Village Project Amrita SeRVe in 2013. New students are enrolled in the program all the time, and the goal is to expand the program to benefit 100,000 students.