Education Programs & Their Impact
Seva Mandir operates 187 Balwadi preschools run by trained women from the community. These preschools serve areas that government services do not reach, and enroll 4,600 children for a full 7 hours a day, directly benefitting another 3,000 caregivers. Camera monitoring and regular professional development motivate teacher attendance. The curriculum focuses on cognitive, social and school-preparedness skills, and enrollment drives encourage 1,000 “graduating” 5-year-olds to enter primary school every year. Balwadis also meet children’s pressing health needs by providing 2 meals daily, deworming, growth monitoring, and immunization drives (inoculating 2,200 children last year). 9 Village Development Forums contribute financially to their Balwadi, and many others take ownership through monitoring and teacher evaluation.
Alternative Grade Schools
Seva Mandir runs 173 primary schools that provide quality education to out-of-school children at a cost to Seva Mandir of $4 per student per month. Most graduates go on to secondary school - 900 students annually - where they outperform their government school-educated peers. Almost 45% of students are female, defying dominant cultural norms that prevent girls from obtaining an education. Seva Mandir schools are distinguished by the quality of instruction performed by men and women from the local community who receive a minimum of 11 days of professional development per year from Seva Mandir. The educational approach is child-centered, activity-based and creative. Through the use of a camera monitoring system that links date-stamped photos to teachers’ salaries, Seva Mandir has reduced teacher absenteeism from 36% to 15.4%. Tuition fees are pegged to families’ ability-to-pay and the local Village Development Forum often contributes to teachers’ stipends & school facilities rent so that the broader community has considerable ownership in the success of these schools.
Residential Learning Camps
Seva Mandir runs Residential Learning Camps to give out-of-school children and dropouts basic literacy and math skills. After 3 camp sessions of 60 days each, the average camp graduate qualifies for entrance into Class 5 in government schools. To take a child with zero educational attainment to Class 5 costs just Rs. 34,500 ($600). Over the past 12 years, Seva Mandir has run 35 camps enrolling an average of 575 children every year.
While the Learning Camps focus on an academic core curriculum, they take a holistic approach to children’s development. Children receive health checkups from Seva Mandir health staff, and are taught basic hygiene (e.g. washing hands before meals). Activities and games impart invaluable non-cognitive skills, such as discipline, teamwork and leadership. At the end of camp, students prepare and perform a cultural show for parents and the community. Perhaps the most transformational outcome of camp is that it arouses both the child’s and the parents’ interest in further study--about 70% of children enroll in schools after camp.