Millennium Post

Humana People to People

Humana People to People is an example of a working public-private partnership that is aimed at tackling the vital issue of out-of-school-children in the Indian education system

It was 2017. I had taken over as Secretary, School Education, Government of India a few months ago. I was on a visit to a government primary school in Haryana. The sight was an incredible one. This was not a typical set of children in a school. They were neither of similar age nor in school uniform but appeared extremely keen and eager. A couple of adults in the room were also not the usual teachers as I walked into the room along with Snore Westgard and BR Sinha, who were tasked to manage the work of Humana People to People in India. I was subsequently informed that these were out-of-school children (OOSC). An attempt was now being made to mainstream them. Each child in the room had dropped out and each had a different reason for doing so.

In 2005, the Humana People to People India decided to address the plight of the OOSC, especially the children living in slums in urban and semi-urban areas. The project was coined as 'Academies for Working Children' and varied from a handful of children seated on a dhurrie (mat) to proper classrooms in rented buildings. From 2005 to 2015, around 15,000 children benefited from these 'academies'. While around 50 per cent of the children were mainstreamed in government primary schools at some time during their education, the project was 'independent' of the government and was dependent on full funding from private sources, which limited the scale of the programme.

With the Right to Education Act in 2010, an idea emerged for developing a pedagogical and operational model that was aligned with the RTE act and the specific MHRD programme for OOSC under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The attempt now was to develop a strategy based on public-private partnership. From around 2013 to 2015, the teaching-learning materials, the tools and the models were developed, designed and piloted at a very small scale in different CSR funded projects.

The first larger programme with 2000 children was implemented in cooperation with Bharti Foundation and RSK Madhya Pradesh in the session 2015-2016 in two of the State's tribal districts, Bharwani and Jhabua. After the initial success in Madhya Pradesh, in July 2016 an agreement was signed with 'Educate a Child' — a programme under The Education Above All Foundation, for mainstreaming 30,000 children in Haryana over three years. In October, the same year, an MOU was signed with the Department of School Education (DeSE) in Haryana. The Department committed to pay for the Kadam Teachers (Education Volunteers) and the printing of the Kadam Tool Kits for each child. These contributions by the State took off in the second year of the project. By July 2019, the project had enrolled over 40,000 children and successfully mainstreamed over 34,000 children, after closing their learning gaps. An assessment of the mainstreamed children showed that over 90 per cent stayed in school, and performed on average at par with the other children.

In 2017 and 2018, the regional workshops organised by the Ministry of Education enabled HPPI to present the Kadam model at 4 of the 5 regional workshops and discuss extensively with States. This gave a boost to the Public-Private Partnership Model and resulted in MOUs with Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. A model for bridge education was also developed under the name of 'Kadam +'. This approach for remedial learning and bridge education for in-school children has reached out to 54,000 children in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

The children spend 70 per cent of their time working in groups of three — TRIOs, doing exercises that are directly linked to NCERT defined learning competencies. In all, 540 competencies and 10 steps across 5 grades and 4 subjects. The competencies and the corresponding exercises are organised in a logical manner so the children learn by constructing new knowledge based on the old and moving at their own pace up through the competencies and the steps.

A baseline determines the entry step, and their age determines the end goal for the exit step. Each child has an assessment card called TMP Card — Tracking My Progress Card, so the progress is visible for the child. The rest of the time, the teacher leads the programme, organising the children in activities under monthly themes. Once a month, the parents are invited to a parent-teacher meeting. Engagements with parents is an important component of the programme.

Identification of OOSC is where it all begins. It is perhaps the most difficult part as well. Areas with a number of OOSC are identified and the catchment area of the GPS in that area defined. The Kadam teacher starts with a household survey and thus maps all OOSC in the catchment area of the school. She mobilises the children and the parents to enrol. The school allocates a class-room, a veranda or a corridor for the Kadam Centre. The Centre ideally runs for 11 months, but often only six to nine months as per the state's allocation of Kadam teachers. The GPS is involved in the programme, the headteacher supervises and supports the Kadam teacher and the activities. The Kadam teachers are organised in groups of 10, who meet weekly and share experiences and collect data for the online MIS. Once a month, a bigger meeting with all Kadam teachers in a district is organised. An HPPI district coordinator leads the operation in a district in cooperation with the district project office for SSA.

One of the challenges is a high number of drop-outs from the programme before mainstreaming due to migration. Focus is now on creating tracking systems of migrating children. The objective is to get them enrolled in a nearby school. The plan for the future is to address the problem of OOSC both through specific special training centres as per the SSA guideline as described in the PPP model above, and also develop the 'Kadam +' model where the bridge education takes place as a part of regular classes in the GPS. HPPI plans to work with the schools and SMCs to identify and enrol OOSC, and then train regular teachers to provide special training facilities for OOSC and children that are behind in learning as a part of their day to day teaching.

OOSC continues to be one of the major challenges that beset school education in the country. This aspect has been recognised in the National Education Policy 2020 as well. NGOs like Humana People to People demonstrate that issues relating to OOSC can be addressed substantially through public-private partnerships. This is the essence of the Nexus of Good.

Views expressed are personal

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