“I had given up all hope of fulfilling my dreams of completing my education and becoming a teacher,” said Vandana, a 14-year old girl from the remote village of Ugginakeri, in the state of Karnataka, South India.
Despite efforts to provide access to education by government and non-government agencies throughout India, many children age 10 years and older, are left behind in the enrollment process.
Some children, like Vandana, are forced to drop out of school early.
“My parents struggled to make ends meet and could not afford to send me to school,” she said.
Other children live with disabilities that prevent them from obtaining a better education. Because of their age, they are unable to enroll in a class at a regular grade school. Academically, they lack the capacity to cope with the curriculum burden of senior classes. Funded by ChildFund Alliance member, Barnfonden, ChildFund India Bridge Courses connect students with teachers who will work to equip them with necessary skills to continue their education in the mainstream system.
For 10 months, students learn to read with understanding, write independently and complete elementary arithmetic through age-appropriate activities. Many of their lessons are taught through play – stories, group activities, songs and dance. Teachers provide one-on-one support to help children gain the confidence they need to relate with their peers in mainstream schools.
“Each year, the program will be split into two groups of students, 25 girls in each,” said Sibghatullah Ahmed, area manager for ChildFund India. “One group is for those who will attend the bridge course in the day time, so as to wean them away from work and encourage them to study instead. The second group is made up of slower learners, presently attending school. These girls will be provided additional academic support during post school hours.”
Subsequently, quickly advancing children will be given the chance to teach their peers who have fallen back. Bridging the gap between these groups thus increases children's capacity to memorize, retain and teach others.
In order to complete the Bridge Course, each girl will need to pass the regular textbook grades of 2, 3, 4 and 5, per their learning pace and achievement levels.
For girls like Vandana, it is the hope that at the end of the course, they will be mainstreamed into grade 3, 4, 5 or even 6 according to their age and learning capacity.