School education is a fundamental non-negotiable for any person and community to reach a stage of self-reliant development, and get out of the vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation. Striving towards this, Agragamee has been deeply involved in the tribal regions, to address the dismal educational scenario. It has implemented projects of the Ministry of Human Resource Development for establishing village schools in tribal Blocks, developed innovative teaching learning material, provided training to youth in creative method and approach to teaching, collaborated with donors for taking forward education in the remote villages, and initiated a movement for literacy in some of the most underdeveloped and unreachable tribal pockets of Odisha.
This has been a challenge in the tribal regions, where a first generation of literates need to be created. The Government schools under the department of School and Mass Education have a dismal performance. The challenge is all the more acute, due to the remote and difficult access of the tribal villages, where infrastructure development has been almost nil. Education people who would stay in the villages to teach have been few and far between. And yet, the enthusiasm and support of the village community, and the zeal of the Agragamee team have sustained the efforts, and we now have graduates post graduates from villages which once had zero literacy.
Seeking a new initiative for qualitative education, Agragamee has started the 'Mukta Gyana Kutira' Schools for tribal girls in some of the remotest locations of the state where children, teachers and parents join together in taking the objective of education for all forward in a dynamic, fun, and interesting manner. Agragamee has sought to inspire teachers to take up teaching as a shared experience in creating knowledge, with the children talking, chatting, playing, and in the process learning with the teachers. This has challenged the teachers as well as the trainers, as all come from backgrounds, of extremely structured, and rigid school atmospheres.
Parents initially very doubtful about this process which was so different from the established government schools have now given us a certificate of excellence, which we value more than anything else. This is a verbal certificate, not something we can frame and put up for all to see, but we strive hard to continue to be worthy of this recognition.
The Progressive Education project was taken up Agragamee, in 2004 for taking forward its experience in tribal education, as also to prove a model of primary education for tribal children that can be implemented with quality, and efficiency in the remotest of regions. Over the 9 years and more of the programme, Agragamee has been able to show clear results in the area of qualitative education. Children who have been attending the Progressive Education Schools stand out in a group or a crowd because of their self-confidence, their knowledge, as also their readiness to talk and reach out.
Having picked up basic literacy skills they are now keen readers, and have explored, and almost exhausted the children's section in the Agragamee library. This has helped increase the world view of these children, and they are sensitised on issues of caste and class, as also communal divided, apart from addressing developmental issues within their own community. In 7 years, Agragamee has helped more than 150 girls finish elementary education, and go in for high school education from villages which had zero literacy rate to begin with. In 2012, Agragamee is proud to say that 9 girls who have passed out of Mukta Gyana Kutir Schools have passed their matriculation exams.
The schools also actively involve parents, leaders and other eminent educationists from the state and the country to develop a curriculum that is holistic; constantly engaging all the members through workshops, village and parents-teachers meetings. Parents are keen to attend these meetings, despite their very busy and toiling schedules. This encouraging support gives us the inspiration to go ahead
Agragamee's efforts in primary education have resulted in several innovations in areas formerly untouched. This has included, taking quality education to the people, bringing about a quantum change in community participation, leadership development amongst children, so that they are able to address social and economic issues within their villages and even question exploitation, schooling local youth to take up the challenges therein, and innovations in the methods of literacy and numeracy learning.