JIVA Spotlight: Charu Choudhary, Prioritizing Education

Part VI: This is part six of an eight part article series on JIVA, the Joint Initiative for Village Advancement, an integrated community development program jointly created and implemented by PYXERA Global and the John Deere Foundation in three rural villages of Rajasthan, India. This series reflects the impact of the JIVA program on its contributors and communities. To learn more, visit the JIVA Homepage and the most recent project update. Keep an eye out for Part VII. 

Charu's Story

When JIVA began, one of the biggest challenges was the state of the School Management Committees (SMCs),1 none of which were functioning in any of the villages in the project area. The teaching methods of government teachers were not engaging and students were not interested in education. Dropout rates were very high and attendance was poor in the government schools, especially during harvests or near any holidays. Most of the students in 7th and 8th grade could not read a single word and the school facilities were all in poor condition. Migration presented another challenge, as many children from the Kalbelia and Bagariya groups migrate with their families for work2 and avoid attending school due to caste discrimination.

"Changes in these villages are encouraging and indicate that the level of education and community engagement in the JIVA villages will continue to improve."

- CHARU CHOUDHARY

When JIVA started, our first priority was to establish Education Resource Centers (ERCs)3 in each village to improve the academic level of the students. We also built the capacity of government teachers, SMC members, child parliament members, and students through exposure visits, trainings, meetings, and workshops. We learned from the parent-teacher meetings conducted by JIVA at the ERCs that there was a communication gap between parents and students, so we organized events to create community awareness on education and social issues. The events, such as Science Day and Environment Day, have succeeded in engaging students and government schoolteachers. We also encouraged parents to increase their involvement in village development activities and motivated children to study hard by publically recognizing the highest achievers.

Since JIVA started these initiatives, the students have begun to organize events on their own. The child parliaments and SMCs are functioning properly, 10th grade board results have improved, and participation in school activities has increased. These changes in the JIVA villages are encouraging and indicate the level of education and community engagement will continue to improve. Some parents have even hired a private tutor for their children to teach them after school. We expect these villages to become model villages and share their thoughts and examples to create positive change in other communities too.

On working for JIVA:

I wanted to work for an organization where I could learn and continuously improve myself. JIVA has a positive work environment, where there is the freedom to express ideas and opinions. In addition to learning how to plan, make decisions, budget, and implement new ideas, I feel I have become more confident and positive when meeting new people and facing new situations. These skills are helpful in other aspects of my life, such as public speaking, communication skills, reporting, managing, and even driving a scooter.

1 A School Management Committee (SMC) is the government-recognized organization of parents and teachers that represents the community and is responsible for holding the public school accountable.
2 Individuals as well as traditionally disadvantaged and/or marginalized groups such as Kalbelias and Bagariyas migrate for economic reasons (i.e. seeking economic opportunity and additional sources of income)
3 Educational Resource Centers (ERCs) are afterschool tutoring centers located near students’ homes and are available to any girl or boy between the ages of 5-16, from any caste. The ERCs are designed to offer dynamic, hands-on learning in a relaxed and welcoming environment. ERC instructors teach reading, writing, math, and science using creative methods as well as art and, in the summer, skills-based classes. To connect students with their communities and practice leadership, ERC students organize community service activities and events that bring together families within the villages.

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