By Deepak Kumar Rath
A literate nation is a prosperous nation. The literacy percentage of our country is very poor although our Constitution provides that primary education is the Fundamental Right of every citizen. Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India, a frontal organisational in the field of education, has taken up the onerous task of making the Janjati and rural masses literate and healthy. The Foundation is running more than 10,000 one-teacher schools in the remote areas of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal. The Foundation has fixed a target of running one lakh one-teacher schools by the year 2011.
The Foundation selects a local youth, who is enthusiastic and is properly trained, for transacting effectively the curriculum developed by the Friends of Tribal Society (FTS). In Ekal Vidyalayas the centre of attraction for the village is the teacher, who acts as a catalyst of change and character building. The teacher would also be responsible to restore and develop the rich traditional and cultural heritage of the Janjatis, says Shyamji Gupta, General Secretary, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, while talking to Organiser. The school runs for three to four hours a day, at a time convenient to the villagers. The children, who attend the schools are of the age group ranging from 5 to 14 years and there are about 40 to 45 children in each school. All the study materials are provided freely by the schools. The organisers of the Foundation informed that they spent around Rs 15,000 a year to run a one-teacher school. What is encouraging is that the local people support the one-teacher schools in their own way and this also binds them emotionally. In some villages people have taken care of the Vidyalayas as their own home, says an organiser of the Foundation. At some places the makeshift classrooms of the Vidyalayas are also used as the cultural centres for the villagers. The Foundation organiser says that they receive donations/contributions to bear the burden of expenditures of the schools.
Not only does the Foundation provide education but it has also earned a name in educating the villagers about personal hygiene, health care, village sanitation and development schemes. The Foundation has taken up two major projects, namely Arogya Yojana and Gram Vikas Yojana. The Arogya Yojana Foundation includes: modern concept of health, mother and childcare, know-ledge of primary treatment of communicable disea-ses, school health programme, national health programme, integration of different system of medicines and organisation of medical camps to provide expert services to the people. Recently the Foundation has recruited about 2,000 paramedical/nursing staffs in various remote parts of the country.
What is encouraging is that the local people support the schools in their own way and this also binds them emotionally. In some villages people take care of the Vidyalayas as their own home
The Gram Vikas Yojana of the Foundation includes total development of the village. The teachers of the Vidyalayas have a major role in the Gram Vikas Yojana. They organise various developmental activities with the help of the people as this Yojana supplements the earning capacity of the village-folk. Plantation of fruit-bearing trees, horticulture, formulation of composite fertiliser, water management and cow utilisation are the main features of the Gram Vikas Yojana. More information on Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation can be found at www.ekalvidyalaya.org