In spite of the Right to Education Act, 2009, lakhs of children, especially in the hinterland do not get proper education. Oxfam India has been doing its bit. In conversation with Brainfeed, Amitabh Behar, Chief Executive Officer, Oxfam India shares how the organization is providing educational opportunities in rural regions
Why did Oxfam India start contributing to the education sector of the country? What ignited that spark of service in education?
We started campaigning for the educational rights of the most marginalized communities, more emphasis on the girl child. Then we decided to work to achieve the goal of universal, inclusive and quality elementary education. Our primary focus has always been on ensuring the proper implementation of the RTE Act. We simultaneously started working with communities for monitoring the delivery of quality education, engagement with teachers as well as elected peoples’ representatives and finally bringing together existing education networks for a synergy of forces. Oxfam India is a founding member of the National RTE Forum, which is the largest alliance on education in the country. Reaching out to the marginalised Reaching out to the marginalised Reaching out to the marginalised Reaching out to the marginalised
What is the mission of Oxfam India?
The mission of Oxfam India in uplifting Indian education opportunities is to work in the areas of enrolment, awareness & counselling, to form school management committees, to establish skill development workshops and the path to provide quality education to children.
Tell us about the different programmes?
There are many programmes which Oxfam India is conducting in the field of education and some of the important ones are:
1. School Management Committees (SMCs) that brings in accountability in schools and overall education
These committees monitor school activities and its working, the school development plan (SDP) to be prepared and recommended as per the RTE guidelines/norms, monitoring/supervision of academic progress, etc. Oxfam India has employed by six different partner agencies in three states of India to implement school management committees which are:
Lokmitra in Uttar Pradesh helped in the formation of SMC federations
Marg, Sikshasandhan and Chale Chalo in Odisha to strengthen of SMCs
LEADS (Life Education and Development Support) in Jharkhand helped in the formation and strengthening of federations of SMCs
2. Social inclusion: to ensure equity in the realization of Right to Education Act
Oxfam India has three partners, working in different context across three states, with socially excluded children. Some of its initiatives are:
In Bihar-APCL (Association for Promotion of Creative Learning)-focuses on the education of Dalit children- It is working to develop seven basic competencies- Core Creative Competencies (C3) – Concentration, Power of Observation, Memory, Thinking, Imagination, Emotional Management and Power of Expression/ Communication.
In Odisha and Jharkhand, Sikshasandhan and SPAR (Society for Participatory Action & Reflection), respectively, focuses on linguistic and caste-based exclusion- Sikshasandhan is working with its project called, Project Bisra- Palao Suder Lagid, which means Education for Change in the local Ho language. SPAR has identified very early an inherent need to address the trauma that children face and the low education levels in areas.
In Odisha-MARG (Multiple Action Research Group)– its core belief is ‘Justice through Legal Empowerment’ that focuses on Muslim children education
3. Community participation: towards achieving education for all
In this sphere, Oxfam India partners- EFRAH in Delhi, Bodh in Rajasthan and MARG in Odisha are working for larger learning and replication. The community participation works like in the below:
EFRAH (Empowerment for Rehabilitation, Academic & Health) is working on a project titled ‘Promotion of Rights-based Education of the Poor in Madanpur-Khadar’ (PREM). EFRAH works in the following way:
Bodh– Bodh Shiksha Samiti (commonly known as Bodh) has initiated Bodhshalas (community schools) collectively by local communities and Bodh.
How many students, teachers, schools and/or parents helped in the initiatives?
Last year, through our education programs we created a direct impact in the lives of around 63,000 people and reached through our partners over 11 lakh people. Communities have shown us that change is possible with collective action. Oxfam India continues to work with students and school authorities to ensure they get equal access to education without any discrimination.
Tell us your experiences?
Oxfam India works with 11 local partners in five states (Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh) covering 11 districts, 153 schools and 133 Anganwadi centres.
Last year in the five intervention states, we formed 127 youth groups with a membership of 2252 including 1160 girls and 1092 boys.
One example of the success of our work was seen in Odisha last year. 27 SMCs started using grievance redressal mechanism to raise issues related to RTE compliance in schools. It led to the appointment of eight teachers and one sports teacher appointed in the schools that Oxfam India works with.
In 2015, we launched the ‘Haq Banta Hai’ (It’s Our Right) campaign to demand the full compliance of RTE norms and provisions in schools in India. The campaign was joined by over 4.3 lakh people in India.
How are you working on the proper implementation of the RTE Act?
We particularly work with groups (consists of parents of students) created for this purpose by the government- called the School Management Committees or SMCs to ensure out of school and dropout children are brought into school and quality of the schools are improved.
We also work with teachers and elected peoples’ representatives to ensure those parents’ aspirations of an improved government school (infrastructure, water, toilet, innovative learning systems) are realized. We support our partners who train teachers to ensure better educational outcomes for students. The implementation of Multilingual Education program in public schools saw improvement in the quality of education in Odisha’s tribal belt.
Last year, through our education programs we created a direct impact in the lives of around 63,000 people and reached through our partners over 11 lakh people
Nirmala Upadhyay, Principal, Poorna Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Chak Ahmedpur at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh:-
Nirmala and her teachers, with the help of Oxfam India and our local partner Lokmitra, started the initiative to bring up to speed children (in her school) who have joined in Classes 6th to 8th from primary and other schools but are unable to read or write accordingly. There are 18 students who attend the sessions by Lokmitra.
“The sessions increase the confidence of students. We have been closely associated with Oxfam India and Lokmitra and that has helped us broaden our horizons as teachers as well. In fact, teachers too at times sit through the sessions so that they can incorporate it in their daily schedule,” said Nirmala.