Breaking Barriers of Disability to Educate Children

Breaking Barriers of Disability to Educate Children

Devkali is an active member of School Management Committee (SMC) of Primary School Terahimafi in Banda district. She holds regular monthly meetings with SMC members and teachers and has kept the discussions around improving school education and infrastructure alive. She was elected as the vice president this year. 

Earlier this year she identified five out of school children and enrolled them after consulting with the parents and the school. Devkali has always engaged with the Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members to improve education in the schools.  

Devkali belongs to the Dalit community and is a differently-abled person. Despite her challenges she has been a role model for her village and the panchayat. 

“We identified five children who were out of school. Then after discussing with the school teacher enrolled all of them in age appropriate classes as per the provision of RTE Act. Apart from this, I also found that six children were about to migrate to other places along with their parents to brick kilns in neighbouring villages and districts. I spoke with them and their parents and counselled and convinced their parents to leave them along with their grandparents so that they would not miss school. Now all of them are regular in the school,” said Devkali.  

She has raised several issues with the SMC to improve school infrastructure as well. For instance, the roof of her school was broken and teachers and children were facing a lot of problem. “We discussed at the SMC and wrote a letter to the Gram Pradhan. With regular follow-up the Pradhan got the roof repaired. We had been raising this issue with the Panchayat for the over a year but no action was taken. But the written application this year really helped.”

Devkali has overcome several problems to ensure that not just her children but others in the village too go to school. “I faced lots of challenges when I came forward for education and started playing an active role in the SMCs. But nothing could stop me from raising issues of school and children.” She has three children — one is enrolled in primary school, one in higher secondary and the youngest goes to anganwadi centre. Her husband is differently-abled, too. He works as a daily wage labour. 

Devkali has got a lot of help from attending trainings organised by Lokmitra (Oxfam India’s partner organisation) on roles and responsibilities of SMCs, making School Development Plan (SDP) for her school and raising grievances through grievance redressal system. She is also a regular at the block and district level meetings organised by SMC Forum.
 
In the academic session 2019-20 SMC Forum members and Lokmitra (partner of Oxfam India) tracked 243 out of school children (girls-134, boys-109) from 21 schools of Banda and Raebareli out of which 205 children (girls-114, boys-91) were enrolled in formal schooling. 

When schools closed down due to COVID-19 lockdown, Oxfam India along with SMC members trained volunteers to conduct offline classes following physical distancing norms. The village school teacher provided fifty books from the school library to the SMC members and community volunteers to teach the children.
 

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