How have you enjoyed your college life?
Dagmar von Tschurtschenthaler has been supporting the education program of the Barefoot College since 2012. This program was launched with the aim of giving children, especially girls, not only education, but also everyday skills. In particular, children in the Silora district of Rajasthan in India are supported. "It is our vision that children in India receive a good basic education in order to be able to step out of their poverty situation. We develop their everyday skills, strengthen their self-efficacy and thus enable the development of strong personalities who responsibly face the demands of the community."Dagmar von Tschurtschenthaler"The 'Barefoot approach' may be viewed as a 'concept', 'solution', 'revolution', 'design' or an 'inspiration' but it is really a simple message that can easily be replicated by the poor and for the poor in neglected and underprivileged communities anywhere the world."Bunker Roy
Education as a challenge for all of India
A nationwide Indian law “Right to Education” has prescribed school attendance for all children between the ages of six and 14 since 2009. Yet 50 to 70 million children still do not go to school; most of them work.
The situation of children in Rajasthan is particularly precarious. The population mainly lives from agriculture; the state is one of the poorest areas in India.
In the remote villages of Rajasthan, very few children attend school regularly. Many - especially the girls - tend goats, look after their little siblings at home or help their parents with their gainful employment.
Poverty is a cause, but cultural and social barriers as well as the poor quality of public education prevent many parents from sending their girls to school.
The consequences are serious:
- 40% girls leave school before they reach 5th grade,
- Out of 100 girls only one reaches 12th grade,
- 68% of girls are married before they come of age.
Due to their lack of education, it is later impossible for them to lead a self-determined life. You are dependent on your husband's family or his siblings. And this is where Barefoot College comes in: Education for girls so that they can be self-effective.
Evening schools and bridge school boarding school
A good school education is the first step towards independence for young people. This is especially true for the children of the indigenous peoples and the casteless. For them, education means freedom from poverty and oppression, but also the opportunity to develop oneself. The Barefoot College has set itself the task of enabling these disadvantaged groups to get an education and lead a self-determined life. Together with our Indian partner organization Barefoot College, we support the basic education of children and young people. This is done in Rajasthan through evening classes for working children - in solar bridge schools / night schools - and a one-year preparatory course for state schools - in a bridge school boarding school (Residential Bridge School).
First generation learners
When selecting children, we make sure that first generation learners and girls are given preferential support. In principle, every child from rural areas between the ages of six and 14, regardless of caste, religion, gender or economic status, can go to school at Barefoot College, be it to the Solar Bridge School or then to the Bridge School boarding school. It is important to us that the children and young people not only learn to read, write and arithmetic, but that they also receive practical knowledge and skills that enable them to cope with their everyday lives.
Literacy and basic education
Our partner, the Barefoot College, differentiates between education in the sense of literacy and education that children receive through family, society, the environment and personal experiences. Instead of imparting “book knowledge”, which is essentially taught in the cities, the children of Barefoot College should learn from their immediate surroundings using practical examples. The health education of children is also very important to us. We therefore support Barefoot College in its approach to health education, which is an important part of the classroom. A team of Barefoot doctors regularly examine the children for their health. Difficult cases are taken to the nearest hospital. The children have access to clean drinking water. For this purpose, treatment basins for rainwater are being installed in the villages. The Barefoot College also promotes the language development of children and young people, who mostly speak Marwari, a Hindi dialect. It is particularly important to us that the children and young people also learn the Indian lingua franca - Hindi and English - for their later careers. The teachers at Barefoot College teach in these languages. The ability to use the computer is also given to the children as part of their training.
The idea of a children's parliament is an important element in the evening school curriculum. Children who attend evening schools get to know political systems and structures because they actually go through the learning process. Every two years the older children (8-14 years) of all evening schools in Ajmer district elect their members of parliament for the children's parliament. The Prime Minister and his cabinet oversee all 150 schools. Until now, all prime ministers have been girls. The members of parliament make sure, among other things, that the teachers arrive on time, that all schools have sufficient teaching aids, that there is enough drinking water for everyone and that even more children are admitted to the school. The elections for the ninth children's parliament took place on January 26, 2016 in Tilonia.
Access to education
With our support program, we address children and young people growing up in poverty, especially girls, of school age and school age from low-income families of indigenous peoples and casteless people in remote areas of Rajasthan. Children from the Silora Block region are particularly disadvantaged; their parents are mainly impoverished farmers or unskilled workers who live below the poverty line. They have to help their parents with work around the house or earn a small income on their own. The life situation of these children is particularly hopeless.
First generation learners, i.e. children whose parents did not have access to education, are particularly encouraged. Because there is a particular challenge here: convincing parents who have not had any school education themselves to give their children access to education. Often the parents' short-term wish that the children may contribute to the family's upkeep prevails over the awareness that their children can only step out of the spiral of poverty if they receive an education.
Girls in particular are discriminated against. To this day, they seldom learn to read and write. At the age of five they already have to look after goats, fetch water or look after their younger siblings. Special attention is therefore paid to the girls.
New perspectives for the children
The Barefoot College in Tilonia has existed since 1972; and since 2012 it has been supporting Dagmar von Tschurtschenthaler. A lot has happened for the children and young people since then. Teachers and families tell us the following positive changes the children have received from attending school:
- The students receive a good basic education. They are often the first generation in their families to be able to read, write and do arithmetic as well as communicate in Hindi and English. With this you have overcome a first big hurdle on the way to a self-determined life.
- The children have perspectives for their later life: they hope for a future in apprenticeships. Children who return to their village community after attending evening school do so as strengthened individuals.
- The students broaden their horizons. You not only learn about the world, you can also experience it: You take part in the children's parliament and learn what a post office or a bank is.
- Her health has also improved significantly. Regular health checks and the improved drinking water supply mean that children are less often and less seriously ill.
But we also observe changes in the children's environment:
- The children and later the school leavers take on many tasks in their villages because they are usually the only ones who can read and write. As a result, the students experience greater self-confidence.
- The children exert a positive influence on the entire family. In the boarding school they learn hygiene standards, good nutrition and social skills, which they take with them into their families.
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