Bhagavatula Charitable Trust or BCT has been working for decades to get children from marginalized communities away from child-labour and into schools. Thanks to the efforts, the child-labour in the 50 villages of operation is less than 3%. But upto the recent pandemic. The high school students have traditionally been from mostly farmers/fishermen and shepherd families. In Visakhapatnam district, mostly the agriculture is rainfed and is often termed as subsistence farming and people mostly are from OBC communities. When the high school started, girls were forbidden to study after their puberty, however, this school was able to break that cycle and with the first batch of students having all the girls attaining their menarche. Ever since, the school has been having mostly girls about 60%. After all these 26 years, this has become a norm now. With the vocational skills that were imparted to these students, many of the earlier batch girls are able to supplement their family incomes by stitching on a part time basis while a few of them are doing it full time. Even the boys who were trained in electrical, even today, when they need money, take up house wiring contract and complete the job in two to three days. Needless to say, skill in hand can always be used. BCT has been providing these children with quality education they would not have had access to. The most important aspect that alumni have mentioned is the Social Animation process that has taught them to be confident to face life as it comes. This has been one “X factor” of BCT high school.
- Covid had impacted rural schools very badly since there was no access to internet or smartphones, no interactions with the teachers and no possibilities of learning. In the first wave, 10 grade students were given smartphones and were taught through Whatsapp before exams.
- covid has been terrible for the girl child. Unlike earlier being at home all the time meant they had double up as caregivers to the sick in the or provide help at home
- There is a high possibility that many girl students may not return to school due to extra domestic responsibilities and reduced incomes of the family
- With no avenues to interact with fellow students, there is a growing disinterest in education among boys which may lead to higher number of dropouts
- The overall level of despondency is very high and mental health is very low
- BCT would like to combine remote education and also build social responsibilities among the children
- Whole classes can continue using WhatsApp and asynchronous learning
- There are predictions that the 3rd wave of covid may be much more devastating for the young and in rural areas
- With lack of good health facilities, BCT would like to leverage the energies of the young adolescent and convert into “young covid warriors’
For support of:
- students at home by giving them smart phones/tabs to attend classes
- counseling to adolescents and their families on their mental well-being
- students in raising awareness on COVID precautions in their neighborhoods especially on washing hands, masks (wearing them properly) and physical distances
- raising awareness on vaccination:
- students to talk to their neighbors on vaccination and encouraging them to get vaccinated
- students to coordinate with Community Action Groups for increasing vaccination % in the villages
- teachers for training these students
- Community Action Groups towards
- initiatives of maintenance of COVID patients
- Moral support to patients to overcome COVID
- Maintenance of Oxygen concentrators
- Increase in the villagers getting vaccinated
- Help students to help themselves
- Increasing number of girl students attending high school in the region. When the high school started, girls were married at 13 while now it is 18-21 years
- Pursuing technical education especially girls has increased. 45.5% of the alumni are in technical education/technical employment
- Continuing to live in the villages ~ 83.76%% of the alumni are still living in the villages while studying or working
- Catering to the students who are from backward communities – 85% of the students are from ST/SC/OBC communities
- Almost all the alumni have mentioned that the training that they were given for life-skills have stood in good stead in taking on life challenges
- Academics: Following the State syllabus for Standards 6th to 10th in vernacular (Telugu) medium of instruction. BCT firmly believes that if a child is strong in his/her mother tongue, it gives them the confidence to learn other languages
- Vocational Skills: Vegetable gardening and Gandhian Charka spinning are common for all students while Electrical house wiring, tailoring and embroidery are electives. Over the years, all the new building’s wiring is being entrusted to these students, who get paid. Children stitch the uniforms and also take up orders from outside and get paid for stitching. Money that the children get paid at the school is deposited in their savings accounts and given when the child graduates.
- Social Animation: This is the X factor for the school. Children are trained to be change agents in their villages and for which, an hour a day is allocated for training on team work, communication, performing arts, accountability, values of democracy etc. Students spend 45 days/year in the villages, bring about a change or spreading awareness. Over the years, students worked on raising awareness, panchayat raj primary education, electoral awareness, health and hygiene for adolescent girls, water and sanitation, organic farming, to name a few.
Padma was helping in her mother’s hotel and never attended school. As part of the child labour rehabilitation program, she was admitted into the program and slowly, she completed her Std. X, set up a small tailoring unit in her village, got married, then joined BCT high school as a tailoring teacher. In order to better herself, she passed certification courses to be a professional instructor. She has now become the Vice Principal of the school.
P. Chinna Babu:
He hails from a shepherd community and was always tending sheep and goats. He joined the child labour rehabilitation program and slowly equipped himself with bachelor’s degree and also a B. Ed. He teaches mathematics at the BCT high school. He is excellent in the traditional art form of bamboo pole swinging
She hails from the fishermen community and was a very active student during her high school times. While she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree, got married and now has two children. She joined the local government high school as a skill teacher and is supplementing her family income. She is currently finishing her B. Ed degree and also enrolled in the Master’s degree also. She also gives time for the development of the villager – an hour a day, organizing children for cleanliness campaign around their households and is a member of the Community Action Group
Ganesh after his Xth, decided to work with his parents. After crossing 18 years, got a driving license and started driving an auto. As the time went, more and more autos started to ply and there was a lot of confusion as some auto drivers were making more money while some weren’t. Ganesh decided to take leadership role and started organizing his auto stand and also decided on the operational rules and regulations. Now he continues to be the Auto drivers union head.
These four alumni are an example of the impact of the school. About three of the alumni are currently working abroad. Point of the high school is to equip children with the confidence to eke a living while staying in the villages, skill to earn and empathy to be a change agent.