The Center for Social Security Action and Research ’s (CSSAR) name is a misnomer; as the organization’s vision is to ensure that every child gets access to quality education irrespective of his/her social/financial background. Set up in 2008, this vision is met through its main activity, which is teaching slum children in Delhi. Currently, 463 are being taught in its centers across 4 slums in the city.
So how do they ensure that these 463 children are getting a quality education? Firstly, by limiting the student-teacher ratio to 15: 1, thus ensuring that every child gets adequate attention. Secondly, efforts are dedicated towards selection of teachers themselves. Secondary school teachers must be college graduates and primary school teachers must have an SSC or equivalent degree. Moreover, CSSAR tests them to ensure that they can effectively manage a classroom of children before taking them on board. After all, if a teacher isn’t able to sustain interest levels of her children, they aren’t going to truly learn, isn’t it?
Thirdly, by strengthening what’s already being taught at the municipal schools and ensuring that children truly understand the same. And lastly, by assessing children’s performance regularly to ensure that they are improving over the years.
The organization works with children studying in classes I to X in municipal schools. Conducted in slums after school hours (i.e. 1pm-7pm), each class lasts an hour. The curriculum ensures that the response is a confident yes to the following questions – Can children do their homework on their own? Are younger kids able to add and subtract and older ones able to multiply and divide too? Are they able to hold up a conversation in English? Are they able to under concepts taught under science? Essentially, CSSAR ensures that children do not remain educated on paper only! Because, after all, if they don’t understand what’s happening in class, they are going to lose interest and want to stop coming to school at all.
CSSAR operates just like a private school would. Report cards are maintained with teachers discussing suitable measures to be taken for under-performing kids. Quarterly meetings are held to assess the performance of each teacher. And parents are kept informed about their children’s progress in schools.
Mr. Jha shared with me how they have purposely made Saturdays the most fun day. With the day being packed with drawing, painting and other art-craft activities, rarely do children remain absent on a Saturday!
So an obvious question that came to my mind was, do the children get tired of attending a class at the end of a long day at school? That too for six-days a week? I got a thunderous “No” from the classroom of kids I posed this question to!
Fruits of their efforts can be seen in the stories of many children. A case that stands out though is that of Amit, who lives in jhuggi no. W Z 250, New Shyam Nagar. Amit studies in 5th std in Nigam Prathmik Vidyalaya. Till March 2009, he was irregular in school and unable to do his home work properly. The reason: unsatisfactory level of teaching in his school. His uneducated and poor parents neither can teach him nor pay Rs 500 monthly to a private tutor to improve his education level. In April, 2009 CSSAR motivated Amit to join its remedial class. Since then he has been attending the remedial classes.
Now he is regular in school and able to do his home work properly. Now he understands different subjects better. He has shown drastic improvement in his studies with the encouragement of our teacher. He is always very keen to learn new topics. He also likes drawing & painting.
Amit has been selected for Medhabi pariksha. He appeared in the exam in March 2014. Criteria for selection is the child who secures first position in class and does constantly well is given this opportunity. Medhabi pariksha is an inter school competition conducted by the education department of Delhi Govt. Results can also be seen in the many improvements they have witnessed – from attendance levels to reading, writing and understanding subject matter in class. So, of course, the number of dropouts, especially girl children have reduced.
In the organisation’s own words, “You would agree that through our little efforts, we are bringing education closer to our future generations; in particular to those who are left behind for reasons of either family income insecurity or non-availability of opportunities to cover lost grounds.”
If you think about it, if municipal school education was of high quality, CSSAR wouldn’t need to be around. Till that time, they are providing a much needed service.