Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan came up with new initiative, which is trying to provide quality pre-school education to the children coming from the underprivileged section of society and make them ready for the formal education process. We have started one such center-the Children Learning Center -at Shivaji Nagar which is situated in the Sanjay Nagar slum in Chembur West, Mumbai. The initiative of starting this Center was taken up by Mr Gulab Ansari with the support of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan. Shivaji Nagar is a Muslim dominated area and the children who come to Center in the Sanjay Nagar belong to the same religion. The inhabitants of this community belong to the lower socioeconomic strata. The center run in the one-room multipurpose house of Mr Gulab Ansari. The duration of the class is 3 hours which begins at 2:00 pm and continues until 5:00 pm in the evening.
There are about 53 students who are enrolled in the Center. An average of 40 students attends the classes. The strength of boys is more than that of girls. The number of enrollments is increasing swiftly and the strength of the class varies on a daily basis. The instructors/teachers have been hired from the same community. Though medium of instruction in the class is predominantly Hindi, there are separate sessions to teach English. The age group varies from 2 to 12 years. The initial resources were provided by Mr Ansari along with the salary of the teacher.
The class sits in two segregated columns of boys and girls. The teachers maintains an attendance register, and they takes attendance at the beginning of every class. Some of the lessons that are taught in English include alphabet, numbers, and basic self-introduction. Basic calculations are also taught to the elder children.
Classes have been divided into two different age groups to adjust to the issue of accommodation and extreme age differences. For the children up to the age of 9, the class is from 2 pm to 3 pm and for those above the age of 9, it is from 3 pm to 5 pm. Some of the other materials provided through Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao are stationery materials; like the pen, notebooks, pencils, eraser, ruler, sketch pens, slates and chalks. The material is distributed according to the age group.
Children are also taught through fun games like secret passing, rhyme recitation, “London Bridge is falling down”, Pictionary etc. We also make arrangements for making the classes interactive by showing them videos involving various shapes, colours, objects, numbers and rhymes.
The major shortcomings that we observed in the past three weeks are quite similar to any such initiative which begins with a little or no resources. The primary problem of the Center is lack of proper infrastructure facilities; space is not enough to accommodate 40 students at one time. It not only becomes difficult for the teacher to manage the class but the children find it inconvenient to adjust.
Children from varied age group make it difficult to meet the appropriate learning requirements of each group of children. The children of the lower age group, especially; 2-5, are left out. The lack of books makes it difficult for the children to develop the reading skills. There are still a wide of children who do not go to school. Their learning here would not find them any utility since the system pass certificate is not available in this setting. It has been observed that the children who go to school are usually better at grasping the teaching in the class than the ones who are not. The confidence is very low among the children and it is witnessed to even less in the students who do not go to school. The children of lesser age group require extra attention and care which they are not receiving since the class structure is so wide. There is a lack of awareness about the value and importance of education among the members of the community. The children who go to municipal school complain about the lack of monitoring and the lack of quality of education in the school setting.
The teaching is non-directional and there is no way of measuring the progress of the children. There is a number of drop-out youth also who is willing to learn but do not fall into the structure of the Center. Mr Gulab Ansari seems to be a man of vision who is serious about the educational development of his community but requires outside aid and guidance.
The future plans for coping with these shortcomings are to develop a proper course structure for both the batches of the class which would cater to their respective individual educational needs. Another plan is to involve the teacher in some sort of workshop so that she can learn more teaching skills. We are also planning on enrolling those students who are not receiving any formal education at schools. We have also started off with the profiling of the students which would help us to gain a better understanding and clearer picture. Another important we are planning to do is creating awareness among the parents about the importance of education; we have already met few parents and convinced them to enroll their students in schools. As one of the major shortcomings is lack of resources, we are also planning to build connections with other organizations that would be able to provide material resources for the better functioning of the Center.