09.05.2009

Vinay Krupadev: Promoting Early Education in Adivasi Communities

Fellowship, Programs, Progress Reports

SEPT 15, 2008 – MAR 15, 2009
Promoting early education in adivasi communities
SARAGUR, H.D. KOTE TALUK, KARNATAKA

Vinay Krupadev, August 2008 Fellow
Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement

dsc06311Background and Project Vision

The common perception in rural and tribal communities is that if kids can’t talk, they can’t learn.  In fact, 95% of human brain development occurs between the ages of 0-6 and neural plasticity (ability to learn) is highest during this time.  While the state of tribal education has improved across the H.D. Kote Taluk, early education is still a new concept for many communities.  In most hadis, the only incentive for anganawadi schooling is the midday meal.  By training anganawadi teachers, getting parents involved, and developing a curriculum, we can redefine the concept of anganawadi schooling for a new generation of adivasi learners.

I have been working with the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) in Saragur, Karnataka for the last 6 months.  I have learned a lot about tribal issues and development in general and am excited to be around so many great leaders.  The spirit of Vivekananda is behind everything SVYM does and makes the organization a truly inspiring place to learn.

After spending some months working to start a renewable energy company to employ rural youth and overseeing SVYM’s file-making cottage industry, I became involved with education in Kebbepura hadi (a small tribal village in the H.D. Kote taluk).  Many tribal youth have poor attendance and education is not a priority for many tribal families.  After tutoring and mentoring youth for a few weeks, I planned to start a youth center to provide free tutoring, mentoring, vocational training, continuing education, and early education for kids of all ages.  I’ve since realized that any one of these objectives is a project in itself and I’ve decided to focus my efforts on early education.  Early education is absent in most tribal villages but could be the key to helping tribal students become comfortable with the concept of schooling.  There are many tribal villages scattered across our region and I hope to lay the foundation for early education in as many of them as I can.

Project Goals and Future Plans

I hope to work with local anganawadi teachers, tribal parents, and the government to create a curriculum for early education for kids between the ages of 2-6.  I hope to draw from the Montessori Method while also implementing affordable and creative activities for kids.  By allowing parents to volunteer and actively participate in their child’s education, we hope to invest them in their child’s schooling from a young age.  Finally, by training teachers to be believe in their work we can ensure that early education will grow stronger with time.  All of this will be done with the local CDPO officer for our taluk in hopes of creating a system that can be duplicated by the government in the near future.  Anganawadis are the government’s responsibility to begin with so it is my hope that we can work together to lay the foundation for early education across the entire H.D. Kote taluk.

Project Implementation Progress and Future Plans

In the Chicago Longitudinal study, Chicago inner city youth were monitored over a period of 23 years.  The results showed that youth who were given early education were 40 percent less likely to repeat a grade, 30 percent more likely to graduate from high school, 70 percent less likely to be arrested, more than twice as likely to go to college, were less likely to require special education, were less likely to commit domestic violence, developed better language skills, scored higher on readiness tests, had fewer behavioral problems when entering school, and had higher median annual incomes.  There are many benefits to early education but the results are difficult to detect in the short term.  Making kids comfortable with the concept of schooling, investing parents in their children’s education from a young age, and making learning exciting should be the main objectives of anganawadi schooling.

Training teachers in the philosophy of early education would be the first step in creating an effective anganawadi.  Providing instructors with a background in early education and the Montessori method would help them better understand the importance of their work.  Through workshops and exposure visits to the VSOE Montessori, we could provide teachers with a vision of what is possible.  Working with teachers to develop a curriculum would add structure to their efforts.  When teachers are actively involved with our efforts, it will be easier to reach out to the rest of the community.

In order for education to be a priority for youth, it must be a priority for parents.  Getting parents involved with their children’s education should be one of the main goals of anganawadi schooling.  By creating a weekly volunteering schedule, parents could devote as little as 30 minutes a week to teaching alphabets, numbers, songs, art, reading, sports, or just playing with kids.  Actively engaging with students is enough to stimulate emotional, social, physical and intellectual development.  What is especially exciting is that this is something everyone can take part in.  When parents are invested in their children’s education from day 1, they will better understand their children’s potential for the future.

Developing a curriculum of practical activities will make our efforts more sustainable and structured.  An effective system of early education could also streamline SVYM’s other efforts in healthcare, sanitation, and SHGs.  Regular anganawadi attendance makes it easier to monitor pediatric health.  Last month’s pulse polio drive in Kebbepura was more effective due to strong anganawadi attendance.  Behavioral change is easier to accomplish at an early age when it comes to sanitation and hygiene practices.  Providing toilet training and hygiene instruction at an early age could decrease health and sanitation problems for the ensuing generation.  Because most SHG members are mothers, they could begin saving for their children’s education from a young age.

Basic teaching aids and books are enough to boost the educational development of young children.  For less than 3000 rupees, we can stock an anganawadi with books, teaching aids, educational resources, and school supplies for about 15-20 students.  Anganawadi teachers could look after supplies and the community could devote its own time, ideas, and support to improving the system.

All efforts to improve anganawadi schooling will ideally be done in conjunction with the government.  I plan to visit the CDPO office in H.D. Kote this week to discuss the state of anganawadi schooling, the potential impact of early education, and the government’s efforts thus far.

Detailed Goal-setting & Implementation Planning

-visit CDPO officer to assess state of early education
-discuss funding, support, and resources behind early education in H.D. Kote
-select prospective tribal villages to begin expanding anganawadi efforts
-establish community relationships in each village
-hold community meetings to discuss the importance of education
-anganawadi teacher workshop at SVYM’s Montessori
-collect statistics and document progress of each village anganawadi
-mesh anganawadi efforts with curriculum of 1st standard of government primary schools to streamline transition
-get parents involved by creating a volunteering schedule
-teacher training done in conjunction with CDPO and SVYM schools
-work with kids and have fun!

Understandings

The kids I work with are fearless, but somewhere along the way they lose this fire.  If there’s one thing that should be “bursting like a bombshell upon the masses” in Kebbepura it’s fearlessness.  When I look at these kids I know they can not only do anything, but do it in style.  All that’s needed is for them to believe in themselves and have the opportunity to act on this belief.

Allowing kids to dream, connecting education to their dreams, and mobilizing the community to invest in its youth will not only transform adivasi villages, but the entire world.

Personal Growth

The Indicorps fellowship means everything to me.  Coming to India is the best decision I’ve made and the support/guidance from the program has allowed me to grow more than I ever could have imagined.  This is a special experience that I’m valuing more and more each day.

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