Several independent studies, including the nationwide rural survey Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), have been repeatedly highlighting the poor quality of education and pointing out serious gaps even in basic foundational skills like reading and arithmetic in schools in rural Tamil Nadu (both Government and private).
Aid India's Eureka village centers were started in 2010 as part of the vision to solve this learning quality problem. Solving a problem of this magnitude is only possible by the convergence of aligned efforts that focus on learning outcomes, continually measureprogress, and most importantly, ensuring accountability by involving parents in their children's education.
Today, the Eureka Village centers are being run in 1063 villages of Tamilnadu.In each village, local youth from the communities are identified, appointed and trained as Eureka tutors.Eureka tutors conduct daily evening classes in the village throughout the year. In some villages, tutors focus on Math, English and Tamil skills for Std. 1-8 children, while in others village tutors have started the program with a focus on English alone. As part of the daily 'English Walk 'n' Talk' sessions, children are encouraged not only to learn English in the class, but also go around the village and teach their family members and elders how to ask and answer simple questions in English. This creates a buzz of excitement and a sense of achievement in the entire village. In Science, children learn about the world around them through fun and exciting experiments. With weekends filled with learning events where children put up role plays in English and demonstrate science experiments, the Eureka program build not just their skills, but also boosts their self-confidence.
The key elements of the Eureka program in each village:
Strong Outcome Focus:
Every child's progress is tracked using a simple visual aid called the skill chart, which also helps the parents and the community members understand the learning progress of every child.
Eureka tutors provideadditional one-one attention for children lagging in a particular skill to help them achieve their learning goals.
To motivate children to learn faster and better, certificates and 'skill stickers' are awarded to them at the end of each learning goal.
Specially Researched Methodology
Attractive individual /group activity learning kits, games and workbooks specifically designed to make classes fun, learning-focused and effective for children from marginalized backgrounds.
Parent Engagement and Community Participation
Eureka tutors discuss children's progress regularly with parents using the skill chart.
Community involvement is encouraged through 'Skill Declaration'events in each village, where the entire village comes together to measure children's learning progress and celebrate their successes.
The significant improvement in the learning levels of the children that has been seen in the Eureka village centers program since its inception has reinforced our belief that Every Child Can Learn if there are clearly defined goals and a focus on measurable outcomes.
Alapakkam is a small village in Kaveripakkam block in Vellore district. As you walk into the village, you see small groups of children running excitedly from one house to another. It is English Walk 'n' Talk time at the Eureka center in Alapakkam. Every evening, children go on 'house visits' to teach their parents and grandparents the simple English conversations they have learnt in class. "What is your favourite fruit, Paati?" asks 10-year old Abhinaya. As the amused Paati shakes her head in incomprehension, the children teach her the meaning and how to answer the question in English. She patiently repeats after them and awards them with a sticker from a reward sheet that is stuck in every house in the village.
During the weekends, the village gathers together to see children perform role plays and songs. Children demonstrate the conversations they have learnt in class. Fear of English is replaced by the confidence that they can learn it easily. Abhinaya's mother works as a farm labourer. "Abhinaya was good at other subjects. But I wanted her to learn English. Seeing her speak English now, I am really proud and happy. I am confident she will do very well in life," she says.
Eureka Nursery and Primary Schools were founded in 2006 by Aid India and Banca Sella, with the vision of providing high quality affordable education to rural children. These two schools are located at Parameswaramangalam and Venkatrayanpettai villages of Kanchipuram and Tiruvannamalai district respectively. They cater to more than 300 children each year, mostly first-generation learners residing in villages around the schools. Parents of these children are predominantly agricultural or daily wage labourers.
At Eureka School, teachers and children learn together. In a child-centric environment, dedicated teachers ensure the best for every child. With a strong focus on outcomes, teachers ensure that children learn by understanding and doing, rather than by rote memorization. Help is always given to children who need extra support. Each child's unique talents and achievements are showcased in events through the year. Through regular coaching in sports like juggling and football, children gain a large amount of self-confidence. Eureka Schools help build and nurture dreams and provide children a strong foundation to achieve them.
Technology is an enabler. When technology is combined with well-designed self-learning content, the potential to create an impact in education quality expands tremendously. Aid India, in partnership with content providers, has been piloting Eureka Tab Labs - Tech enabled classes for children to learn English, Math and Science. The tab lab classes offer children advanced skills in English, Math, Science and Tamil.
Using technology (video lessons and mobile apps), these 'Tab Labs' provide a high-quality learning environment for children. Children learn from concept videos, practice on apps that cater to their level, and take assessments on tabs that help them determine how well they have progressed.
Volunteers from Chennai, and from the US, have been participating in online live virtual classes in these centers, where they directly teach children in remote areas without having to travel there. Eureka Tab Labs redefine the access to good quality education for children in villages.
With many years of direct implementation experience, Aid Indiaworks as a resource group for several grass-root organizations and schools all over the State. The objective is to leverage the work of several of these organizations and schools and catalyzetheir efforts to achieve better learning outcomes. With a focus on basic skills, Aid India has been training more than 1000 schoolteachers and village tutors on innovative techniques, learning methodologies and classroom management to ensure better results for children.
At the end of each term, the training team visits the school or after-school center, assesses the children and awards certificates for children and tutors who have achieved their goal.
Plans are discussed with the teachers for remedial action to help the children who have not yet acquired the targeted skills.
Whenever there is a natural calamity, Aid India has always been at the forefront of relief and rehabilitation efforts. Through Aid Indias vast network of dedicated volunteers, immediate assistance is provided to people who need it the most. Aid India has always believed that immediate relief must be followed by long-term rehabilitation efforts. This belief gave rise to the Eureka Homes program in 2016, to identify the most vulnerable and needy families and give them a dignified living. In many villages, there are old people and families that literally live under plastic sheets or in a dilapidated house. Eureka Homes provide the much-needed shelter for these poorest families to live with dignity.
As part of its Eureka Homes initiative, Aid India has constructed 244 houses for the poorest families so far. The whole village is involved in the decision of identifying the families. The family participates actively in the planning and construction of their home. Eureka Homes provides the much-needed shelter and security for the poorest families to live with dignity.
While many villages lack in basic needs, there are few villages where the deprivation is even greater. In settlements like Irular, Narikoravar and tribals, the issues are complex and inter-connected - low enrolment in schools, high drop-out rate in primary levels, low literacy rates, poor nutrition and health and so on. Many have moved away from their traditional livelihoods, which are no longer viable. There are several cultural and social barriers, which need to be overcome to make a difference to their lives.
Aid India works in these most backward villages, with the aim of improving the quality of life, mainly for women and children. We believe that an independent intervention in education alone is not adequate to make a lasting impact on the people and their lives. Given that the issues are inter-connected, a multi-pronged approach, which integrates solutions to the key issues like education and health becomes important.
Aid Indias integrated tribal development program is a long-term commitment to bring about significant change in tribal villages, over the next 5 years. To begin with, we are working on education and health awareness interventions in about 30 villages across 5 blocks of Tamilnadu.
The interventions include
Running Eureka after-school center in the villages
English intervention for spoken and reading skills and to build childrens confidence
Setting up a 'Learning Lab' or a tinkering lab, which will provide a non-traditional approach to learning. This component will be specific to each village. Children will be encouraged to work on local issues. There will be workshops on cycle repair, use of cell phones, use of computers, robotics etc. Through these workshops, we will also tap into their indigenous practices and traditional skills which are soon disappearing and get children to document the same. Children will do projects to document local knowledge like home remedies using herbs for which these communities are known for.
Health camps and awareness programs for adolescent girls
Nutrition interventions to improve their levels
Identify the most vulnerable like old couples, single women and build homes for them
The integrated village development program is a long-term effort, and it may take several years to make small improvements in the lives of these families. We know that we are in it for the long haul. However, when the changes come, and we are confident they will, we believe that they will make a significant difference to the quality of life for these families.