Students enrolled in main stream education - To integrate the students of the Academy in to conventional formal education system with regular classes and school activities, the project staff grooms the students in both curricular and extra-curricular activities, so as to enable them to cope up in the formal educational institutions. The children at the respective academies were groomed to fit the mainstream education programme by learning academic and behavioural skills, to be at par with other children. There was also a major transformation in the mind-set of the children, as from the whining about coming to school during initial days, they started looking forward to attending mainstream school with the passage of time. 185 students of the respective centres that had developed understanding of the subjects, were facilitated by the academies to get enrolled in the nearby government schools. To further assist student to accord with weak subjects and to ensure that the students enrolled in the formal educational institutions do not drop out under pressure of not being able to cope in the new environment, the project staff had been providing free of cost tuition classes to nearly 94 students during the evening hours.
10-Step Programme - The AWCs promoted activity based learning, through the means of 10 Step Programme, which granted children the freedom to master the content at their own pace, both theoretically and practically. The 10-Step programme is yearlong, in which learning is carried out under 11 headlines. During the first five days of the week, the children worked on developing theoretical concepts, including language (Hindi and English), Mathematics and environmental knowledge, under the 10-step programme. On the 6th day and in the fourth week of the month, the practical aspects of learning were taken care of, by generating experiences on the learning, through presentations, quizzes, etc., which helped in better retention of the concept. The AWCs had adopted the academic curriculum followed at the respective state Government schools and had incorporated various practical learning that aid the children in their day-to-day dealings and also helped them to progress with activities mentioned in their 10-step books. The child’s progress at AWCs was not merely evaluated by the grasp of the general subjects but also by working towards psychological growth. The children learnt how to behave in groups, how to communicate with other students and teachers and how to develop skills such as teamwork, good manners, unity, sharing, and responsibility, which would be helping them significantly throughout their lives.
Thematic weeks - To promote knowledge building through the “Learning by Doing” format and to instil soft skills like, leadership, oratory skills, decision making, etc., thematic weeks were organised every month at respective AWCs, which ensured the holistic development of the children. In 6 thematic weeks that were concluded at respective AWCs, the activities were projected around the unique pre-defined themes and the students were organised into the groups and present information about the assigned topics, through verbal and chart presentations, group discussions, etc. Some of the theme covered were focussed on Nature and Surroundings, Personal Hygiene, Environmental Issues, Public Speaking, Indian History, Modes of Communication, etc.
Parent Teacher Meetings - Recognising the importance of close interaction between parents and teachers in making further improvements in the performance of their children as well as functioning of the respective Academies, 22 Parent Teacher meetings were concluded in which parents participated in each meeting and awareness was created among them in relation to health, education, seasonal diseases, human rights, gender equality, importance of identity proof, etc., to improve their knowledge base for a better future. The inputs and support needed to improve the child’s performance were also discussed which included regular attendance of students, maintaining personal health and hygiene, etc. Also, the art and craft products prepared by students during the thematic periods were presented and poems as well as stories were cited by the students at these meetings.
Health Check-up Camps - To provide healthcare services with an intend to meet the immediate health care needs of the marginalised community members, the project had organised 7 standalone health camps that offered comprehensive health services, which includes providing curative, preventive, promotive and referral measures. General health check-up camp for nearly all the students enrolled at the respective centres of Greater Delhi, Gurgaon, Dhanwapur and Malviya Nagar were carried out by registered medical practitioner to facilitate early detection of deficiencies and general health of children. However, the students were diagnosed with common problems that included worms, vitamin deficiency, calcium deficiency, fever, cold and cough, tonsillitis, headache, dental, eyes and ears related and diarrhoea, etc., and free medicines were given to all these students. Also, health days were also organised along with Health Camps at Greater Delhi and Dhanwapur centres so that health promotion and prevention were given equal importance while curative care was administered through health camps. Also, everyone was advised to practice yoga and exercise in the morning for a healthy living and were educated on the importance of maintaining hygiene and cleanliness. They were instructed to take bath daily and brush their teeth’s twice a day. Furthermore, students were suggested to avoid eating roadside food and to throw garbage anywhere.
Skill up graduation classes - A monthly programme on life skill education for the children was organised where the teachers explained about various virtues like good manners, honesty, self-confidence, team spirit, punctuality, health and hygiene, qualities of a good listener, qualities of a good speaker, importance of education, etc., to enhance the life skills of the children to prepare them for the outside world. The staff organised life skills sessions at the respective academies with participation of nearly 276 students in every session. In these sessions, teachers explained about the nuances related to daily cleanliness, trimmed nails, taking a bath every day, brushing teeth, and washing hands. The children participated in demonstrations displaying the correct ways to wash hands, brush teeth, etc., to create awareness on the right practices. The children were also advised to become the Torch Bearers of hygienic practices in their respective families.
Sports and Cultural Events - Considering the extra-curricular activities as an integral part of a student’s life, the project staff organised monthly sports and cultural activities to ensue holistic development of the children as well as to ascertain that a student apart from being successful in competitive examinations also play games and perform on the stage to enjoy the health and vigor of life. Working on the phrase “Sound mind in a sound body”, 15 sporting events were organised that primarily include the games of kho-kho, badminton, skipping, hit the pot, musical chair, tug of war and cards; these events witnessed the participation of nearly all the students of the respective centres in these events. These games instilled in children the virtues of hard work, team spirit, and discipline, and the winners of respective games were given awards as a token of appreciation. Furthermore, 14 cultural programmes were concluded that provided an opportunity to the children to explore their hidden talents. Students participated in dancing, singing, story citation, presenting drama, and reciting poems. Applaud from the students enthralled the space which motivated the participants to give their best and each event concluded with the serving of the refreshments and prize distribution to the best performers.
Teacher Council Meeting - Monthly project council meetings were organised wherein status of various ongoing activities at the main centre and respective satellites were taken up by project leader along with the project staff. Review of the last meeting agendas and achievements thereafter, along with the dropout status, review of the 10-Step programme, status of the computer as well as tuition classes, and planning of activities for subsequent months were thoroughly discussed. Besides, the means of making the course more interesting through extra-curricular activities to interest the children were also discoursed.
Teachers’ workshop - The programme also focuses on building capacities of teachers so as to enable them to help children in a more better and well-informed way. It was achieved through weekly council meetings and quarterly workshops organised with teachers from government schools. The project conducted 4 teachers workshop during the reporting period, which were focused on building their capacity to prepare innovative and creative methods to teach the curriculum. These workshops also discussed the contemporary issues such as new government schemes for children education, RtE (Right to Education), dropout rate and mainstreaming of children, etc. The interactions during these workshops also helped the project teams in building good rapport with the government teachers.
Children enrolled at the Academies - Working towards its objective to provide education to the children of underprivileged and migrant families who have either never been to school or are school drop outs, Academy for Working Children (AWC) provided education to 1,219 children through its respective Academies. The students that had joined the Academy came from diverse backgrounds and possessed different capacities to learn. The programme was designed in a way to cater to both quick and slow learners such that proper time and attention can be allotted to the slow learners, and meanwhile, the quick learners were also engaged in productive activities so as to balance the time lags and bring out the better in them. Besides, the Academy staff members incessantly mobilised the community members on the importance of education and sensitized them to enrol their children to avail basic education. As a result of these efforts, a total of 215 new students were enrolled.
Cleaning Action - The project staff organised 7 cleaning actions in the nearby slum areas of the Greater Delhi and Dhanwapur centres respectively, wherein over 100 individuals participated to clean their surroundings, along with the Academy students to sensitize the community to keep the surroundings clean and plastic-free as this will allow proper drainage of the waste water and to keep mosquitoes as well as flies at bay. The events ceased with an appeal to the community members to maintain cleanliness and to follow the principles of health and hygiene. These sessions also stressed on occurrence of diseases on account of unclean surroundings, especially around eating, cooking and bathing areas in the house. As a part of the cleaning action, the team along with the participants attempted to create proper drainage channels around the kitchen gardens.
Community/Slum Development Meeting - To sensitize the community members on the importance of education, right to education and issues like health, education, hygiene, seasonal diseases, Tuberculosis, etc., 19 slum development meetings had been organised at the academies of Greater Delhi, Dhanwapur and Gurgaon wherein the project staff visited different parts of the slum, and communicated with community people about the local issues and they were informed about the importance of identity proof and Government welfare schemes as these opportunities do not reach the intended beneficiaries due to lack of knowledge and necessary documents among the target group. Moreover, the staff encouraged the community members to adopt and practice clean habits in daily life to prevent infections. The staff also held group discussions so as to boost community participation in the events so that they can express their views, share concerns, and clear doubts regarding the issues.
Acquainting the youth with Computers - Today’s children not only need basic education but also the ability to learn from their surroundings and adapt themselves to the rapidly changing paradigms. With the increasing competition in the job markets as well as enhanced reliability, computer literacy has gained an utmost importance. Working towards the initiative to educate the young children who do not have ample resources and to quench the knowledge thirst of all those who wish to delve into the intricacies of education, the respective AWCs, apart from the Greater Delhi centre had provided computer literacy to 271 students. Basic fundamentals in computers were taught that primarily includes introduction of computer, its hardware and software, various commands and shortcuts, painting, note pad, word pad, MS office, window movie maker and the internet. Also, an objective test was conducted after completion of three months course and qualified students were provided with certificates. Skill training on Tailoring and Beautician course - The Academies of Rajasthan and Gurgaon also made efforts towards economically empowering the girls and women in the target community with vocational skills and training so that they are capable of contributing towards the upkeep of their family. Working towards this endeavour, 3 month courses in tailoring and beauty culture were being offered at nominal charges and 139 community women and girls had received these training that enabled them to supplement their family income by starting their micro-enterprise in tailoring and beauty treatment.
The Effect of the Project
Since the initiation of the programme in 2001, Academy for Working Children has been a torch bearer of the community to sensitise them on various societal and communal issues, with particular reference to the importance of education. In these underprivileged families, education is often perceived as a high-priced luxury, and this negative outlook continues on with every new generation. The AWCs strives to provide elementary education to the deprived children of the slum areas who have either never been to school or have dropped out due to miserable family conditions. Over 1,200 children from varied backgrounds has been enrolled and are being educated following the innovative 10-Step programme that also gives the child the independence to learn at its own comfortable pace, coupled with the necessary guidance and motivation by the teachers. The programme is so far effectual in making the parents understand the importance of education for a well-to-do life of their children, as a result of which people are coming forward for enrolment of their children at the centre and are extending support to the children in continuing their studies in formal schools. However, it is also evident from the upsurge in the attendance of the children and their enthusiastic participation in extra-curricular activities. The programme also facilitates the mainstreaming of the students in the educational institutions and keep a regular check on their performance. To ensure their regularity and to curtail their drop out, students are provided remedial classes at Dhanwapur and Greater Delhi, resulting in the improved performance of the children. The innovative 10-step programme has a unique blend of formal learning and practical experience, which ensures the overall development of a children coming from the diverse backgrounds. All the activities of the academy are intended to soar student’s confidence, reducing drop-outs and attracting more children to attend the Academy regularly. The cultural and sports programmes rendered a platform to explore the hidden talents of the students and to showcase them in front of the community members, thereby soaring the confidence level of the children. It also enables the mobilisation and sensitize the community on the social issues of utmost importance. Besides, Parents have also understood the importance of education, so they ensure that their children attend the classes regularly. They attend Parent-Teacher meetings more promptly and are taking interest in their children’s homework and are extending support to the children in continuing their studies in formal schools. The regular health check-up camps have helped in reducing health issues of children. The increase in regularity of children to the schools and lesser incidences of bad health condition of children is a proof of the impact of the activities. The camps are also being used to provide awareness sessions to the community on maintaining personal health and hygiene. The basic computer trainings have helped the youth of the area to develop new competencies and improve the chances of their employability. The sessions on English language have developed the capacity of the youth in effective communication and public speaking skills.
PROVIDING COMPUTER CLASSES