Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Babita, Taking Education To The Last Mile: Priyanka Kaushik

Babita, who is in the last phase of her fellowship, has impacted the community to such an extent that new edu-leaders look up to her when they talk about leadership skills, being courageous, and implementing change at the grassroots level. 

Babita’s teaching center was based in the community, while her peers were teaching in schools. Her experience of teaching in a community center reminds us that instead of force-fitting learning into the already-stressed day in a child’s life, why couldn’t school come home? Not only could this help reduce the burden and stress of both the parents and children, but it will also help create a learning environment for children in their homes and community.

This opportunity helped Babita break her preconceived notions about the local community and their daily lifestyle. She would think that people in villages don’t want to provide education and opportunities to their girls and women. She is proved right when her mother has to listen to taunts from other women when Babita comes home late by even half an hour. It would take a lot of effort and courage from many girls to improve the community’s mindset.  

Her journey started from looking for a space in the community to teach students who were out of school for two reasons – one, the schools were closed due to Covid-19, and second, some students had to do household chores with their family members.

Manish Goswami (Community Representative)

“Babita (who is an Edu-leader at i-Saksham) is making every effort in the education sector and empowering the community to be cognizant of the ground reality. Pandemic is going to have a lasting impact, especially for communities that are already marginalized. It is therefore imperative that we create solutions that can reach the last mile and Babita is one of our community leaders who is said to be successful in doing this.”

Image from first Parent Teacher Meeting (PTM) in the community  

Babita started with a class of 5 children in September 2019 and by April 2021, her community classroom had 40 students! This was a result of daily door-to-door meetings with the parents of the children. During the lockdown, she was able to teach 10 students through mobile phones. The rest of the students studied with the help of worksheets and TLMs. Currently, there are 20 students in her classroom and some students moved to their ancestral homes – this indeed is an inspiration for other edu-leaders. 

Babita, teaching community students on her center 

Babita, teaching students through Teaching Learning Materials (TLMs)

Community students showcasing their drawings

Teaching in the community center was not limited to the center itself. Babita would visit the community after classes to check on the children who had missed their classes. 

One student, Gauri, would often skip classes to pick wood from the jungle. Her grandmother told Babita that firewood is essential to cook food, so Gauri could not come to class every day. 

An idea hit Babita’s mind: why couldn’t she help them in enrolling for the PM Ujjwala Yojana that provides LPG connections to women in this community? After understanding the procedure of getting LPG connections, she convinced a few parents of her children to apply for it. Within a month that family got an LPG connection! Then the whole community started looking for this government scheme’s benefits. Gauri’s attendance is regular now. 

The second-year curriculum of the fellowship gave a push to Babita, in which the edu-leaders are taught about government schemes. It was a point in the fellowship that gave her clarity about the proper implementation of policies on the ground. After conducting surveys around government schemes, Babita found that there was a lack of awareness among people, primarily due to illiteracy.

She believes that there is a need for better coordination among private entities, community institutions, civil society, and NGOs to improve the reach, transparency, quality, and effectiveness of a scheme till the last mile beneficiary.

Currently, Babita is pursuing her graduation and wants to become a civil servant. Meeting women in village organizations, helping team members during sessions, and regularly attending webinars and seminars provided by i-Saksham pushes her further in the direction of her dream.  

Priyanka Kaushik is handling communications at i-Saksham.

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