"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." - John DeweyEducation is key to better life. Right education can change someone’s life. Proper education is necessary for everyone. Most of the students in urban areas are privileged with good schools and private tuitions. It helps them survive in today’s cut-throat competition. There is an intense fight over every single seat of best colleges. But the scenario in the villages is completely different. Belgaum district consists of many such villages where students are struggling due to lack of proper education and opportunities. The villages are surrounded by farmlands of sugarcane and corns. And common occupation here is working on the farm as the daily wagers. The pay is not enough to support the entire educational expenses of the kids. Many villages have a school only until 10th grade. For further education, they have to travel to nearby villages. The travel time is long and at times students have to wait for hours for the buses. The frequency of the commute is low. Despite all odds, these parents work hard to make sure their children go to school. But without any additional tutorials, it's difficult for them to crack the board and competitive exams.
(An Inaugural function of the Child center)
CEO of MASS (Mahila Abhivruddi Mattu Samrakshana Samsthe), Ms. Sitavva Jodatti, this year’s Padamshree Awardee recognized this problem. In association with the EveryChild organization based in the UK, they decided to open centers in various villages in Raybag Taluka. In 2006, they inaugurated about 47 child activity centers in the villages. EveryChild funded this program till 2015. The initiative proved to be very helpful for the children. The legal support officer of MASS Ms. Irawati Mang visited London for training. This project came with the employment opportunities for the youngsters who were willing to volunteer to teach in these centers. Today they continue to run the centers even though their partnership with EveryChild ended in 2015.
Currently MASS is looking after 55 active centers, 25 Raybag, 15 in Athani and 15 in Chikodi. They plan to add 15 more in the Hukkeri Taluka. The centers are monitored on the regular basis. The volunteers who teach are these centers are known as ‘Preraka’(for boys) and ‘Preraki’(for girls). They have cluster officers who look after each Taluka. And then head of the program. They conduct meetings of all the volunteers every two months to review all the activities done in the centers. The tuitions are taken every day in the evening from 5 to 7 pm. Apart from coaching students for various competitive exams they also conduct many activities for personality development. MASS conducts student parliaments at taluka level and district level. The winners are sent to participate at the state level student parliaments. One girl and one boy participate at state level every year from Belgaum district. Apart from this they also conduct cultural programs annually where students are encouraged to perform. Volunteers also need to conduct parent meetings every month to discuss and solve any issue faced by either parents or the child.
(Child activity center at Savasuddi village)
The centers have helped the children broaden their horizons. Parents are also happy since it does not cost them anything. MASS tries to provide employment to Devdasi children through this project. The preference is given to Devdasi children for volunteering. Anyone who has studied till 12th grade is eligible to teach at these centers. They get paid a certain amount every month. This helps them financially, as most of the volunteers are students themselves who dream to continue their studies. Almost all the volunteers attend college in the day and teach at the center in the evening. I visited two such centers. One in the Savasuddi village and one in Bekkeri Village. The center in the Savasuddi village is managed by Kamala who has finished her 12th grade. She is known for her easy and creative way of teaching. Her classroom is full of arts and crafts. Kamala wants to continue her education and study B.Ed. Due to financial difficulty at home, she decided to take up this job so that she can save for her college fees. The center in Bekkeri is managed by Geeta who is a meticulous teacher. She makes sure every child in her class gets equal attention. The students were extremely disciplined and energetic.
(Activity center at Bekkeri village, where students face frequent power cuts)
MASS's initiative has changed lives of many students. But it's not an easy road to walk on. At times they have to study in the dark. There is no proper electricity supply in the villages. In some villages the find proper room to conduct the classes but in others, they have to use the common hall in the village. MASS is running the centers with help of money raised from various communities in Belgaum. This can go on as long as they get funds to continue this venture. MASS has been doing an amazing job by providing free education to Devdasi and Dalit children. And they definitely deserve an A+ on their report cards for undying passion and strive to change.