This two years fellowship by i-Saksham is changing the face of education for children in Bihar

Divya Sharma of i-Saksham tell us more about their fellowship programme meant to train youngsters who in turn teach other kids. This has helped them change the face of education in Bihar
Children getting a dose of learning
Children getting a dose of learning

When Ravi Dhanuka, Shravan Kumar Jha and Aditya Tyagi took up the Prime Minister's Rural Development Fellowship held at Jamui and Munger districts in Bihar in 2015, they found that children were struggling to access quality education for various reasons. Though these children used to attend tuitions, the youngsters who taught them were also part of this particular ecosystem that did not know the right approach to educating them. That's when the three of them decided to start an organisation called i-Saksham Education and Learning Foundation that was supported by NSRCEL, IIM Bangalore's incubation centre. 

Divya Sharma, an assistant manager at i-Saksham who has been working with the organisation for a long time, explains, "The idea of launching i-Saksham was very simple. We train a group of youngsters who in turn provide quality education and teach kids in their villages with the right approach. Initially, when we started our organisation, we introduced a three-month certificate course for these youngsters but we were not able to track the improvement in the children's performance at school or the improvement in the teaching style of these youngsters. Three months was too short a time to come to a decision. Hence, we introduced a separate two-year fellowship programme."

In this fellowship programme, i-Saksham selects community youth and trains them to be community educators. Then, these educators volunteer in the schools where they studied. They spend more than two hours every day teaching kids and helping other teachers at the school. They can even volunteer to train kids at the Community Learning Centres in rural areas. Divya says, "In these two years, we train the youngsters to handle and teach students belonging to various grades. We teach them concepts through pedagogy tools like differentiated teaching, storytelling, learning activities and hands-on experiments. It is further aided with various teaching-learning materials (TLMs) and technology such as the use of tablets, educational apps and others."

Currently, i-Saksham is running its fellowship for the seventh batch of candidates. According to the team, the programme is unique because it brings positive change in the perspective of these youngsters. Divya says, "While this fellowship is meant for both young boys and girls, a lot more girls take up this programme. Recently, one of the girls who completed her fellowship went on to pursue her higher education at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and four other people went on to pursue their higher education at Azim Premji University. This way, the youngsters by graduating in our fellowship, set an example for others in their village."

So, what is the eligibility criteria for candidates who apply for the fellowship? One needs to be a 12th pass or a graduate holder and must have good communication skills to establish a good rapport with kids. These are the basic requirements if you want to become a Community Educator. Currently, i-Saksham is present in Jamui, Munger and a few other districts in Bihar. "With the pandemic, most of our programmes have gone online. We are now planning to expand our programmes to different regions across India," concludes Divya. 

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