Community ownership helps improve education in a village school

Community ownership helps improve education in a village school

The only Upper Primary School in Bagdafa village, a tribal area, in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district had 176 students but only four classrooms and four teachers. The school had poor and failing infrastructure — leaking roof, non-functional and broken toilets, and no boundary wall. The school was simply not RTE compliant to cater to the enrolled students. Moreover, it was inaccessible for many students as this was across the forest and a river. Authorities continued to ignore the community's demand to build a bridge for children. There were also instances, where parents did not allow their older daughters to go to school so they could stay at home and take care of younger siblings in their absence.

It was a gnawing concern that children would stop going to school and so there was a need to bring everyone on board and ensure that the school was up and running. Ward member Kisan Singh and the School Management Committee (SMC) president, Gouranga Naik took the lead and called a meeting of the SMC members, other parents and youth of the village. 

And what the Bagdafa community achieved over the next few months is a perfect example of how a community that is aware and strong can demand its rights and ensure that development is long term and sustainable.
 
Oxfam India along with its partner Sikshasandhan held awareness building workshops. These helped the community to understand the nuances of the RTE Act and of the grievance redressal mechanisms in place under that Act through which they could find a solution for the prevailing problems in the school. Stress was laid on girl child education. A few of the SMC members were taken for a field visit to a school in a neighbouring town to understand how the school infrastructure needed to be. The community was also encouraged to participate in the school development plans. 

Training to the community yielded actions. The SMC members wrote to the Sarpanch, the Block Education Officer and the District Magistrate demanding the repair of the school, construction of an additional school building and the appointment of school teachers. It was because of the efforts of the community that Bagdafa received a grant from the Gram Panchayat to construct additional classrooms and work order to construct toilets under Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan.
 
Bagdafa village has shown how building community awareness is essential to make any change sustainable. The youth and parents are now very involved in the running of the school; they monitor classes, attendance of both teachers and students, as well as hold mandatory SMC meetings. The village council has also resolved to ensure that each and every child is enrolled in the school — boys and girls. 

To solve the problem of accessibility, Oxfam India helped community members facilitate the construction of a wooden bridge to help children walk safely to school. A bridge, using locally available material, was built by the community members. Additionally, arrangements were made for volunteers or parents to accompany children to school to ensure their safety.

What We Do

Oxfam India continues to work on ground, with grassroots partners, to ensure access to quality education for the most marginalised children, especially the girl child. Oxfam India advocates for the proper implementation of the Right to Education Act by working with communities, schools and village and district authorities. School Management Committees (SMCs) which comprise of teachers, parents, social workers, and local authorities play a crucial role in ensuring that out of school children are sent to school. They are regularly trained on different aspects of the RTE Act. School teachers are also trained to adopt innovating teaching and learning methods to help ensure retention of children. Teachers are also sensitised on gender and caste-based discrimination to ensure an equal environment in schools.

Between 2018-2020, Oxfam India helped enrol 13,050 children in school in Odisha. Additionally, 40 schools were made functional, 32 school development plans were prepared, 1050 SMC members and 750 teachers received training from across our intervention areas in Odisha.

The pandemic has posed another set of problems for the schools. They have been shut since March 2020 and even though classes for students have moved online, only 15% of children in rural India have access to internet. This has resulted in lakhs of children discontinuing education. Oxfam India stepped up its efforts to ensure children do not miss their classes. In its intervention areas in Odisha, Oxfam India trained young volunteers from the community to conduct offline classes and extra-curricular activities while following physical distancing norms. 

Support us to help send more children to school.
 

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