Educational Support Programme at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre of Social Work, MGIED, Chuchuyimlang, Nagaland:Ideas for Action
Soon after the launch of the MSW programme at the MGCSW in August, 2010, when observation visits and transact walk in the area started and field work placements were being finalized in a few villages during 2010-2012, the problem of quality of primary education attracted the attention of faculty and students. Problems of absentee teachers, untrained teachers, shortage of teachers, drop outs, low level of motivation adverse media reports, and coaching of students were well-known which were affecting quality. Examination results of the secondary and senior secondary schools run by the Government and even private schools were poor. A few examination centres in the State had shown zero results. The overall pass percentage in the area where the MGCSW is located was less than 50 percent. This was so in the case of both the Government Schools as well as Private School. And this is happening in a state where the literacy level is higher than the national average.
The State of Nagaland has adopted Communitization at the local level which is a form of decentralization. In the field of education, health, water and electricity, powers of oversight and action have devolved upon the Village Councils. On the pattern of the 29 functions listed for the Panchayats under the 73rd constitutional amendment, 29 Committees have been formed by the Village Council to perform these functions. But these Committees are yet to play a pro-active role to meet the challenge of quality in education and other domains. The retired teachers in the village are yet to volunteer their services for the benefit of children in schools and those who are out of schools. Soon after the transfer of power at the grass-roots level after 30 years in October, 2011, the new Village Council has published a list of Committees along with their members.
Based on this brochure, social work practicum in village Chuchuyimlang in the field of education and other areas is organized. It was to address the need for better education that Educational Support Programme was conceived. The objective of the programme was not to undertake or supplement teaching. It was meant to motivate children to pay attention to their studies through different playway methods, individualized assistance to those in need of special attention, group work, engagement in creative activities, and supervised group learning at the designated Centre(s) because of paucity of space in their homes. In Nagaland, the medium of instruction is English. At the primary stage, it is mixed with local dialect. Some of the dialects do not have scripts. Efforts are being made to develop them through the publication of local vernacular newspapers in order to strengthen ones' ethnic identity.
Contact with Stakeholders to Launch ESP:
Students of MSW made community contacts extensively to share the idea that groups will be formed initially of 10-12 children to identify individual and group needs, their interest, level of learning, degree of participation (active, passive or indifferent), exceptional qualities / potentials which can be developed depending upon their age and class, leadership capacities, parenta support and so on. Before planning the educational support programme, students of social work met families, teachers, education committee members, local Church, retired teachers, etc. A meeting was held in the Community Hall where members of the Education Committee, retired teachers, parents, Pastor and other functionaries of the Church participated. Faculty and students of social work facilitated the smooth conduct of the meeting. All the members present in the meeting liked the idea of the educational support programme and members of the Education Committee assured full support, including some financial assistance for this purpose to procure resource materials. The first Educational Support Centre was inaugurated soon after this public meeting even though it had rained heavily on that day. About 40 children of the primary school and elementary school were present in the inaugural function. They were well-dressed, joyful and eager to participate in this event. Some had come with their bags and text books to study.
Selection of Site(s):
Under the educational support programme, students continue contact with the village primary school teachers, parents, members of the community and Education Committee and identify space where such a programme can be conducted in the neighbourhood of children because many households do not have space or conducive environment for children tor study at home. The households in the village are located on or around hill tops and on flattened land.
ESP in Five Villages:
The MGCSW has selected five villages for the field work of MSW students. Since the village Chuchuyimlang is close to the MGCSW, students of social work of both the first and second years help children at these Centres by rotation. In other villages which are at a distance of 3-12 kilometres, this work is done only on field work days by those students who are placed there for concurrent field work. If rural camp happens to be in one of these four villages, educational support activities are also combined with others chosen for the camp. Children seem to enjoy the interaction with students in a non-formal setting. Learning or interaction takes place in a group which is mutually re-inforcing. In fact, the Educational Support Centres of village Chuchuyimlang act as social laboratory where all the students gain experience by turns and try out their learning in other villages. This programme, however, is new and it needs to be streamlined. In Chuchyimlang, the local dialect is Ao and Naga MSW students who belong to other ethnic groups may understand or learn to speak this dialect but they may not be fluent with it. Students from other States therefore are put with Ao Naga or other Naga students to learn from this project and to contribute to it through examples from their region. One Boro student, when asked to share his experience of educational support programme, drew attention to his body language and dramatization which children enjoyed very much. This student is so involved with this activity that except Sundays, he visits the Educational Support Centre every day. Students report to the faculty supervisor of their work and seek guidance. It is planned that over a period of time, their learning experience will be documented and edited to develop it into a Guide Book for new students to take up educational support activities in future. This may even be used as resource material in the Workshops for teachers through the State Department of Education or the Village Council.
Needed Resources for Action
Educational support activity requires prescribed text books, maps, educational aids, pictures and clippings from newspapers, posters etc. Text books from the 1st standard to 8th standard are needed for reference and in order to select themes of interest for interaction in the groups. Again in ESP, groups may be formed or re-formed according to the age, interest and level of learning in the school. Marginal or slow learners, average learners, fast learners and those with disabilities or poor support from their families due to various reasons may have to be approached differentially in a group, and even individually. In order to sustain interest, resource materials may be developed by involving children at times on a competitive but more on a cooperative basis. Demonstrations and role plays are liked by children most. Poems, group songs, drama, debates, games etc. may be used to create interest and a few lessons may also be taught in this way.
Facilitation in a Group
Craft work, art, painting, outing, or quiz and puzzles selected from newspapers and weeklies and use of audio-visuals enrich these creative activities. Children (and adults) in Nagaland, due to the influence of Church, learn songs and sing them well. Song, therefore, is a helpful medium for interacton. The Education Committee has assured the MGCSW some help for developing these resource materials. In a group situation, interaction is guided through different methods by the students so that some members of the group do not dominate, form a clique, or bully others to keep them silent. At present, the focus is on the government school, but children from the private school are not forbidden if they wish to join. As part of field work, feedback is given to parents and teachers occasionally. So far children have liked the programme. Later ESP may cover even pre-school children as a separate group to build a stronger base, or even organize programmes for the children from Government and Private Schools together.
Plan for Professionalization of Educational Support:
The programme of educational support will evolve in due course so that laboratory work is done on the campus and demonstration or facilitation is done in the community. Orientation of MSW students, the practice of individualization and group work in education, home visit, site visit, duration of interaction and outcome, re-orientation of support programme, mobilisation of community support-expected and received- as also parents and teachers' support, continuing work during vacation through retired teachers under the Village Education Committee etc. are matters under consideration. Periodic report of this work to Education Committee and other stakeholders will generate more interest among them. Tracking of a child's progress over time and review of targeted intervention is also proposed. Case records and group work records are planned for teaching purposes to help students appreciate the context, problem, efforts and outcome. Relationships established through this programme may contribute to the development of other programmes in the social and allied sectors at the micro level.
The objectives of the educational support programme may be initially put as follows:
If these objectives could be realized in terms of positive outcomes, it will be a great contribution by the profession of social work to the social development of the Naga society as also to the preparation of dynamic and creative professionals who can deal with such challenges. Seeds of gender equality in a society which is patriarchal can be sown through these groups. Substance abuse, which is widely prevalent in the local area, State and the North-East Region, though difficult, can also be taken up as a theme and growing children may be made aware of its detrimental effects.
Learning by Social Work Students:
Students' weekly reports showed more activities performed by them than the process of action or efforts to change the situation through planned group interactions, analysis of appropriate and new responses, differential approaches tried in a group and its outcome, preparation made for group interaction and its application, and plan for the next group meeting. Some reports were stereotyped which showed gaps or blocks in the students' learning, use of creative approaches and even in their personality development. It needs to be realized that a professional social worker under training can bring about change in the pattern of relationships in a group, but correspondingly the group undergoing change may also challenge and contribute to the creativity of the student workers and their professional development. Under the ESP, inter-group and inter-village interaction among children may also be planned which can promote quality in education and create a win-win situation for all the stakeholders. These Centres later may develop into Community Resource Centres as part of the developmental activities of the Village Council. Some Village Councils are publishing Brochures with photographs to introduce their village to visitors. The ESP, in course of time, may occupy a proper place in these publications.
* A write-up on the "Educational Support Programme at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre of Social Work, MGIED, Chuchuyimlang, Nagaland: Ideas for Action" prepared by the author. Alongside their concurrent field work, the MSW students are participating in the Educational Support Programme in five villages to improve the quality of education in the area.
R R Singh
Former Director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
Former Member NAAC, Rtd Professor of Delhi
University, Dept of Social Work.
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