The Personality Development program designed and implemented by CRY-Child Rights volunteers in a suburban slum has successfully helped in reducing the number of school dropouts.
Every Saturday, students from Jaibai Vidyamandir, a semi-English and Marathi municipal school nestled in the Shaninagar area of Kalyan, a suburb on the outskirts of Mumbai eagerly wait for their ‘lessons’ to begin.
The students are mainly children of rag pickers and construction workers. Due to financial pressures on the family, these children often end up rag picking or selling scrap during their summer holidays. Encouraged by earning small amounts of money, they eventually end up dropping out of school and working as child labourers full time.
CRY volunteer Roshan Sarukte who heads the Kalyan CRY Public Action Group developed a unique program to motivate children to stay in school.
Soon to be a graduate, Roshan says he designed the program to bring the children back to the classrooms, get them interested in studying and eventually in their own lives.
“Due to family pressures and extreme poverty, many children end up working full time and dropping out of school. Our main aim was to get them hooked on to studying and convince them to be regulars at school. For this we had to build their self confidence first,” he says
“There is a common perception that children from poorer backgrounds and specially those who attend government schools are not smart enough to students of private or convent schools. We wanted to change this perception and hence took it on the challenge of preparing these children to be more confident. Empowering these children was our objective,” says Roshan who along with his team of 12 has been volunteering every weekend at the school for last two years.
Both Roshan and Divya Mistry, another CRY volunteer looked back at all the information they had gathered over the two years and identified key areas which could be addressed with the children.
Soon the duo designed a module targeted at children studying between Std 5 to Std 7. The module covered four areas namely – Personality Development, Discipline, Leadership and Money Management.
The first session took place in the first week of June last year with 20 students. Though most of the students were able to read basic English, they were less confident of speaking the language. They also lacked the ability to present themselves well.
Roshan with his team of volunteers began the session with reading and writing skills for the classes as a whole and also personally catered to the ones who did not know to read or write at all. He also helped the students with working on their postures while standing and reading in front of the whole class. Their pronunciations and grammar skills too were corrected from time to time.
Once the children were comfortable with these sessions, they were taught how to use hand gestures to narrate a story or to explain a text.
The volunteers also kept a check on the dressing habits of the students and emphasised on cleanliness by asking them regularly to wear their uniform, cut their nails, trim their hair etc. They were also taught the importance of good manners and speaking politely.
In few sessions, the team taught the students the importance of saving habits and how one should manage one’s money.
The outcome of this was that few children did save up their money and bought themselves either a ball or a new school bag from their savings.
Divya says the change these sessions have brought into the lives of these children have been eye-opening for them as well.
“We began it as a one-time experiment but it has made a difference in the lives of these children. Jaibai Vidyamandir is a semi-English and Marathi municipal school with a capacity of 90 students. It is located in an area where families of ragpickers and daily wage construction workers reside in large numbers. It is hence extremely challenging to work with children in such situations.”
Divya recalls that how to further increase student participation, CRY PAG volunteers conducted health camps and art and craft competitions.
On Independence Day last year, 10 students from Std 7 for the first time ever, gave speeches in front of an audience of chief guests and the entire student body.
Another 28 students gave speeches and presentations on their favourite leaders which included the likes of Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam, Mahatma Gandhi and many more.
The children began to notice changes in themselves.
“In Std 6, I was the boy who always sat quietly in the corner of the classroom. But after taking part in such activities I now give whole speeches in front of many students without any fear,” says Shivam from Std 7 who says that when he gave his speech for the first time in front of a crowd, he wasn’t afraid at all.
Mayur, another student from Std 7 says that he loves the classes on weekends. “We study the whole week, but when Saturday comes, we look forward to it as we enjoy the entire day with interesting activities. This makes our weekends happy and perfect. ”
These changes in children have greatly influenced the lives of the volunteers as well.
Divya, a Mass Media student confesses she loves volunteering and finds joy in the growth of the little ones.
“These sessions helped us in understanding the children better and improving our approach towards them. We find that the children are now more attentive, polite and mainly interested in studying. They are regularly attending school and taking part in school activities as well.”
The teaching staff of Jaibai Vidyamandir also claim to have witnessed a miraculous change in their students post the personality development sessions.
Teacher Rekha Gore says that during her lecture she noticed that students were very attentive and their participation in the classes too has increased. “The weak students are getting better.”
Principal Jayashree Kher agrees with Rekha and says the efforts made by CRY volunteers have been very helpful.
“They are doing a fantastic job. I saw many positive changes in our students during the school event. We too want to incorporate such activities in school but unfortunately due to restrictions on syllabus and other government work involved we are unable to do so. I would like to thank CRY volunteers for helping us out and I hope these modules will be implemented in other government schools as well.”
“Apart from education, the overall development of a student is an important aspect of a child’s life. Empowering children to develop his/ her skills and abilities, to have a voice, combined with a sound formal education is absolutely essential,” says Kreeanne Rabadi, Regional Director, CRY-West.
CRY – Child Rights and You (formerly known as Child Relief and You) is an Indian NGO that believes in every child’s right to a childhood – to live, to learn, grow and play. For over 30 years, CRY and its partners have worked with parents and communities to ensure Lasting Change in the lives of more than 20 Lakh underprivileged children. For more information please visit us at www.cry.org. For further information please contact: Mamta Sen, Senior Manager, Media Advocacy, CRY, email id: firstname.lastname@example.org.