In India, we face a lot of problems with the quality of education. In the course of our work, we have observed that many times the teachers are not adept or motivated to engage with the children. Even though this is perhaps the most critical of tasks that a teacher has, the teaching quality and as a result, the learning experience falls short.
In such circumstances, there are people who often act as the bridge between the teachers and the students. Some call it tutors, some call it mentors. In our work too, we realise that to motivate the primary school students towards education, such people are required. We call them as CHAMPIONS.
For us these champions are the one who ease out the complications of classroom, bookish world (which we all hate as a kid) and make the process of learning fun and engaging. Champions, unlike others, don’t just bring the change, but be the change. They get involved in adopting and implementing everything they learn and bring it forth for benefit of others. The intent of the program is also that gradually these champions turn out to be a leader and join the schools as a teacher.
However, no one is born champion but over training and engagement, we can turn them into one. What is actually needed is a therefore chance, a chance to discover their potential and to sharpen their skills.
“Untapped Potential is the difference between where a person is now and where he or she can be.” – Bo Bennett
We at the Happy Horizons Trust, take a lot of pride in our champions and their journey to empowerment. But many questions arise, when it comes to these champions. ‘Which champions are talking about?’, ‘Who all are they?’, ‘Why do they need training?’, ‘How do we select the champions?’, ‘What kind of training would they be provided ?’ and finally ‘How the training would be helpful for champions?‘, so that they can inspire the young children.
So, one of the initiatives of the Happy Horizons Trust, is to provide training to young high school students and graduates, to become champions and empower them towards becoming a leader. Champions training is essential to motivate the youth girls towards the society and engage themselves in activities that will result in the improvement of quality of education in schools. Under this, every year, we shortlist a few girl candidates from Girls High School based on a very stringent qualifying process of 6 rounds that comprise of i.Reading ability, ii.Writing skills, iii.Extempore Public speaking, iv.Group Discussion, v.Personal interview and vi.Parent’s interview.
We are very particular that we include only girl candidates for these champions training. As a result it is really important that we include the parent’s interview as a part of this process. The situation of the girl children in rural area, in states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh etc is not unknown. Soon after the completion of secondary school or high school, parents want to marry off their daughters. This consistent practice of keeping the girl child out of consideration of having a career is something sown deep down in rural society. But until and unless one tries to uproot it, every girl might face the same fortune. Hence our emphasis on choosing girls from high school. The girls then have to qualify all other steps and also whose parents can understand the importance of education and let her daughter be one of the champion, rather than marrying her off early. After selection they go through training sessions to become better equipped for the schools.
Rukmini Devi Scholarship
But this is not as easy as it seems. Parents feel hard to let go their daughter outside to learn and get associated with any organisation. We introduced the Rukmini Devi Scholarship as an award with a financial incentive spread over 3 years. A financial support, if comes from Girl in the house, make a huge difference and change the mind set of people . Once selected, champions get this scholarship of ₹5000 per year and are given training on conducting activities, mentoring , guidance, English lessons, digital literacy by the senior champions and other members of the trust, and other professionals.
Post their training, the champions selected under the Rukmini Devi Scholarship are allocated schools to work in. During this, they are required to spend 2 hours a week in their respective schools where they aim to allow the students to understand the different aspects of education, resulting in increased motivation amongst children.
During the initial year of training, we engage them in conducting activities in primary schools such as Book reading session, story-telling session, art and craft activity, general knowledge etc. Gradually, with experience, during 2nd year, champions maintain logs, mentor Junior champions, they have given digital literacy by senior volunteers, they give talk across villages about environment cleanliness, hygiene maintenance and how these petty actions lead a child’s health toward education,also about the importance of education and discuss government schemes regarding education, so that parents feel equally motivated to educate their children.
In the final year of training, inclusive of all earlier activities, our champions organize and manage events of organization, with the digital literacy provided to them, they update about their work and project reporting on internet.
By the end of 3 year training, champions get confident enough to talk in front of people and lead them; they get skilled in teaching while making it fun and engaging; their skills get even shaprer. We carve out a leader out of those champion and empower them. With the rewarded certificate of completion, these training can further help them in life to be self-dependent and have a career in schools as junior teachers. Responses we get from children about the sessions conducted by the champions are full of energy and enjoyment. This 3 year training brings alot more confidence and spontaneity in champions which earlier was unavailable and inaccessible for them.Thus, our goal of providing quality of education does not remain limited to children, but it also help in the upliftment of the champions who get involved.
As a new envisage, we are looking forward to select young married girls for champions training, so that those who, despite having qualities and aspirations, didn’t get opportunity, can come forward take a lead and bring a change in societal mind-set. Although it would not be as easy as in words, but every journey starts with a dilemma and challenge which later can be set as a good example. For now, our existing champions are a new face of change in society in Bihar. And they further need more opportunities to enhance their skills.
To give them a better exposure, Happy Horizons Trust team of Delhi works to arrange for exposure trips to Delhi. The last one was held during 9th to 13th December 2016. This get-together was focussed on motivating our Champions and provide them with new skills, so that when they go back, they can implement what they learned from these sessions.
With inputs from Puja Raj, Content writer at HHT