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Amrita RITE believes in preparing children for life by giving them a holistic education. Chancellor Amma’s vision is to provide children with education for life along with education for living.
No education can be complete without a firm grounding in proper health, hygiene, nutrition and social practices. Remote rural and tribal communities are usually cut off from the external world, as they have lived isolated lives for generations. Often they have developed their own deep-rooted social structures and norms, which they are reluctant to change. In this situation, bringing awareness to a community also entails working in a non-intrusive fashion, with sensitivity and respect for local culture and beliefs.
Amrita RITE creates awareness on health issues in areas such as nutrition, hygiene, substance abuse, adolescent health, etc. and social issues such as early marriage, human trafficking, etc. enhanced with software developed for tablets.
The Amrita Awareness Ambassador (AAA) Program developed for peer education of schoolchildren is an offshoot of RITE’s awareness program.
Consistent teacher training and monitoring are the foundation stones of a good education system. The success of the RITE Program relies on the teachers we employ in our villages, as they are our emissaries into the village. With this in mind, Amrita RITE organizes regular training of rural teachers employed in all our Village Education Centers. Often we offer this employment to most educated girls in the village, thus empowering them within the community. Health and social awareness is a component that our teachers teach not only to their students, but also to the parents and the extended village community.
Teacher trainings happen individually at the adopted village where a residential master trainer trains the teacher. Larger residential trainings are held either at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Kerala, or at various centers around the country. These sessions are designed for few weeks as a month, depending on need.
Teachers from Amma’s adopted villages across the country are trained in proven classroom practices, classroom management, use of tablets to teach subjects, hands-on education, and activity based learning. Teachers are also encouraged to blend their local culture and history with their teaching in order to honour and preserve local traditions, art and heritage.
To inculcate values early in their lives, students are trained in Yoga and Meditation as a part of the curriculum. Yoga and meditation are regular features of Amma’s Village Education Centers. Meditation is incorporated into the daily routine at the beginning of every class to help students focus on the academic tasks ahead. Yoga is done every Sunday led by teachers trained in a month-long yoga workshop at Amritapuri.
Teachers incorporate fun activities such as ‘Animal Yoga’ to retain attention or to regroup after a lesson. Based on yoga techniques, the exercises connect the right brain and left brain, increasing student attention and concentration.
“When children are made aware, the community will eventually become aware,” says Chancellor Amma. This is the vision behind Amrita Education Centers and the reason why they have become the centre, the heart, of the village.
While classes are taken every day of the week, on Sundays the education center comes together for ABK, Amrita Bala Kendra, a cultural gathering. On the first Sunday of the month, parents of children at the center are called for a meeting to discuss the progress of the children. Awareness classes are given by students as well. On second Sundays, the ABK classes are followed by an awareness class on nutrition and community kitchen gardening. Every fourth Sunday is clean Sunday in the villages. All children at the Education Center get together to clean one area in their village, be it their school premises, or the trash lying around the local pond or any area that requires a cleaning. Seeing the persistent work of children, parents have also begun to join the effort.
In some villages, RITE has encouraged mother groups to make tasty nutritional supplements for children at the education center with locally available grains and legumes supplied by RITE. Local RITE coordinators are also made aware of government schemes that they can avail to promote education in their area.
For example, in Harirampura, Rajasthan, government funds were made available to repair the local village school.
In villages like Dagara, Gujarat, RITE has filed an application to the government to upgrade the local school to high school level so that girls can receive a higher education.
Special events and traditions are celebrated in the village. Along with preserving the local cultural heritage, the purpose of building awareness is also sought.
“Azad Bharat, Saakshar Gaon” (Independent India, Literate Villages) was the theme for 2015 in Amma’s villages on India’s 68th Independence Day. In many villages, the adult literacy program received a shot in the arm as children resolved to teach a family member to read and write.
Raksha Bandhan was celebrated with the village children making their own rakhees tying them around their classmates wrists, sealing the loving protection of brothers for their sisters. In many villages, protecting the environment was the theme, with villagers tying rakhees around a tree or plant, vowing to protect it like a brother or sister.
During Vishu, the harvest festival celebrated in different names throughout India, children everywhere were encouraged to plant a tree sapling as “Vishu Thainettam”.
From time immemorial, respect for nature has been a natural part of village life. Today, when man exploits nature and cuts forests with abandon, Amma has initiated the planting of thousands of trees to restore the balance of nature. Groves planted with beneficial trees, like the four sacred trees – Athi (Fig), Itthi (Peepul), Peraal and Arayaal (Banyans)- release oxygen and are good for the environment. Fruit bearing trees and medicinal trees like the neem are also planted.
Building value system, self-confidence and self-esteem in children are the primary goals of Amma’s program of empowering 101 villages and making them self-reliant. Amrita RITE has developed a series of value education books and e-books on tablets in regional languages to preserve and promote values among the younger generation.
Having villagers taking pride and ownership in local village traditions and customs is another step towards self-empowerment. Indian culture and heritage is best seen in small villages like Harirampura in Rajasthan, where the spirit of service, hospitality and brotherhood is part of everyday life.
One of the ways Amrita Education Centers strengthens the value system among children in the village is by teaching them to respect elders in the village, especially women. In Harirampura, where gender inequality is very high, RITE has introduced a monthly tradition- an elderly woman in the village is felicitated by the young children in the village. They touch the elder’s feet, garland her and present her with a new set of clothes. Both generations benefit as the elderly feel cherished and the young learn an important lesson in respecting their older generations.
In some places, every week each child contributes one rupee as donation- a small amount, but enough to instill the spirit of saving and to work towards a higher cause.
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