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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mobile School

Educative Street-smart coaches


The mobile schools are equipped with the latest teaching aids
For those who cannot afford to go to regular schools, mobile schools provide a valuable alternative.

THEY are keen to study but don't have the resources. They live in difficult circumstances like red-light districts, construction sites and traffic signals. They are the street children, who can now study, work on computers and play games at their convenience.


With the government launching two 'Chalta Firta' (mobile) schools, for children living in difficult areas of the city, many can now experience education at their doorstep. The buses have been introduced as part of a new scheme under the government's flagship programme — Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, aimed at the universalisation of elementary education. These yellow buses are well-equipped with the basic infrastructure of a classroom along with the latest teaching and learning aids such as VCDs and learning kits. The 'mobile schools' are being operated on a public-private partnership after a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the department of education and two NGOs — the Salaam Balak Trust and Butterflies. Says Beena Sheth Lashkari, founder secretary and director, Door Step School, Mumbai: "This concept was introduced in Mumbai in1998 and has since been replicated all over the country." Elaborating on Doorstep, she says that the introduction of audio-visual equipment is a source of great attraction for children. Besides, resource bags containing equipment for basic scientific experiments and puzzles that circulate between project areas are an added bonus. Adds Lashkari: "The modus operandi is to conduct a class at a time and place convenient to the group of children being catered to. Emphasis is laid on language and mathematical skills needed in one's day-to-day life. The basic aim is to help the children in being able to read and understand a newspaper, fill in relevant forms as and when required and express themselves through writing."


On a similar note, numerous brightly painted RTV vans carry the 'Tamasha Road Show (TRS)' from one traffic signal to the next. The vans represent the 'School on Wheels' initiative launched by the NGO Katha. Filled with fun-learning material, the roadshow attracts children to a learning environment through theatre, songs, dance, puppetry and even computers. "Under TRS, we are working with street children at 10 selected road crossings, where five teachers and two mentors conduct regular classes," informs Amrita Talwar, networking officer, Katha.


Under 'The Education on Wheels' project, started in 2006 by the NGO Deepalaya, teachers use flash cards, art and craft activities, games, storytelling, role-plays, ice-breaking exercises and educational CDs to hold their students' attention. The bus is equipped with facilities such as a TV, DVD/VCD, music system and even computers. The aim is simple — to attract and retain out-of-school and working children. The concept of 'mobile schools' provides a complete solution to the space restrictions in slums, and therefore allows more utility. The ultramodern set-up in the bus improves its motivational quality and other basic facilities. It is an innovative approach to joyful learning.


Further, 'A school on wheels,' being run since 2000 by I-India, an NGO, offers nutrition, sanitation, medical care and recreation in addition to education. Also, efforts are made to pull out students of their daily routine of living in slums and they are motivated to go to formal schools. Says Prabhakar Goswami, director, I-India: "Our target group includes runaway children, street and slum children, child labourers, ragpickers, beggars and those working at tea stalls and dhabas, among others." He adds: "Besides providing books and other teaching material, we also provide toys, basic sanitation and healthcare material like tooth paste and antibacterial cream to children. Also, an ambulance and nurse, regularly go with the buses to distribute medicines."

Sunil Sharma
Dil Se Desi Group

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