When peers turn teachers to promote girls’ education
A Jamshedpur-based non-profit YUVA (Youth Unity for Voluntary Action) has roped in college students to hold free tutorial classes in five villages of East Singhbhum district in Jharkhand to ensure that girls from tribal communities have an opportunity to pursue their education.
Manoj Choudhary 18 May 2023 9:09 AM GMT
Potka (East Singhbhum), Jharkhand
It was a watershed event for many young girls in the villages of tribal-dominated East Singhbhum district in Jharkhand. A non-profit organisation based in Jamshedpur, called YUVA (Youth Unity for Voluntary Action), began to hold tutorial classes in the villages of Chakri, Tangrain, Sidhirsai, Shiling and Jojodih in Potka block, to ensure that Adivasi girls had the opportunity to pursue their education.
Launched in January this year, the academic campaign called Peer Tutorial has had a significant impact in rural East Singhbhum.
“YUVA has been conducting classes in the five villages to improve the academic performance of the girls. Girls in the age group of six to 18 years attend Hindi, English and Mathematics classes five days a week,” Arup Kumar Mandal, the head peer tutor, told Gaon Connection. “This helps students who had dropped out for various reasons or could not keep up for lack of mobile phones during the pandemic, etc., catch up,” he added.
Girls in these villages traditionally got the short shrift when it came to education. "They will eventually get married, and an education is of no use to them anyway", is the reason many parents don't give importance to their daughters going to school.
Mamta Sardar of Chakri, was one of those young girls who dropped out of school four years ago. “Parents believe that girls should marry and become housewives and that primary and elementary education is more than enough for the daughters,” the 14-year-old, who is now trying to get admission in Utkarmit Madhya Vidyalaya in Chakri, told Gaon Connection. All thanks to YUVA, she said.
“During the pandemic, many of us did not get mobile phones to attend online classes while the boys did. This made us fall behind, and we could not catch up once schools reopened,” Nikita Sardar of Chakri, who dropped out of class eight after the COVID pandemic in 2021, told Gaon Connection. She now attends classes as part of Peer Tutorial. These classes are held free of cost for the girl students and YUVA raises funds via donations.
“The Peer Tutorial academic campaign by YUVA has 10 college students, both men and women, acting as tutors. YUVA has hired them from the very villages where they will teach in order to make the girls more comfortable as they are already familiar with their tutors. About 236 girls are benefitting from these classes,” Arup said.
There are about 50 students enrolled in each of the five tutorial centres and more than 20 are now attending their schools regularly, Arup added. He also informed that each of the tutors are paid Rs 6,000 per month. The class timings are 1 pm to 3 pm, and are held either at village community centres or government schools.
The peer tutorial classes are having an impact and girls are showing marked improvement in their confidence level, say the tutors.
“After I started these tutorials, my interest in mathematics has gone up. I practise mathematics for two hours every day,” Sandhya Karmkar of Tangrain village told Gaon Connection.
According to tutor Anjali Patra, who is 19 years old and is in the second year of graduation, the girls are often weak in studies not by choice, but by circumstances. “Girls who had dropped out three to four years ago are willing to start studying again, now that they have an opportunity,” she said.
There are several reasons why the girls drop out of school. “Most of the time they are the ones to help their families in farming activities, especially during sowing and harvesting, and therefore they miss school,” 21-year-old Amarjeet Khandwal, a tutor in the programme, told Gaon Connection. He teaches at Tangrine village.
“Moreover, the nearest college is 15 kilometres away from these villages and public transportation is sketchy. So, as there are no higher education facilities, the village people feel there is no point in sending the girls to school,” Khandwal added.
Sometimes it is the fear of English and Mathematics that keep the girls away. For example, Puja Kumari and Sandhya Karmkar of Utkramit Madhya Vidyalay in Tangrain feared English and Mathematics respectively and avoided going to school altogether. But, after attending Peer Tutorial classes, they have gained confidence to go to school regularly.
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Enlisting parents’ support
Initially, parents objected to girls attending these classes, but tutors, who are college going students from the villages, successfully motivated and guided parents about the importance of girls’ education.
“Villagers who were reluctant to send their daughters to the tutorial classes were persuaded by the tutors to send them,” Suren Sardar, a resident of Chakri told Gaon Connection. “The tutors convinced them that the girls could make them as proud as their sons could, and educating them was as important,” he added.
“Dropping out of school is a big problem, especially with the girls in the villages and this hinders a better future for them,” Ujawal Kumar, a social activist in Tangrain told Gaon Connection. But, the campaign by Peer Tutorial is bringing about a change,
“Tutors pay particular attention to students' problem areas in subjects. They analyse the reason why the girls are unable to follow and tailor their teaching approach accordingly.” said Barnali Chakraborty, secretary of YUVA.
According to tutor Rina Sardar, who teaches at Chakri, five students who were dropouts are preparing to get admitted to local government schools. “YUVA, villagers and panchayat level public representatives have joined hands to enable these girls to complete their education,” Rina said.
The tutors conduct regular meetings with villagers and motivate them to support girls’ education. “They have started realising the importance of educating their girls and are sending them to school regularly,” said head tutor Arup.