The Early Learning Group
The Early Learning Group was Suchana’s first initiative and has been running since January 2004. From small beginnings with fifteen children on Sunday mornings, the group now meets three times a week for three-hour sessions, and caters to 140 local children. The ELG is working with a new generation of children – mostly adivasi, and mostly girls, but all of them suffering from a struggling education system and rural disadvantage in a poor district. Without at least a good grounding in basic education, these children will be ill prepared to take up any new opportunities offered by the changing economy in India, and are even less protected by the state than their parents were. Without basic literacy they will face enormous difficulties in representing themselves as agents in the development process and in organising to articulate and claim their rights.
The ELG meets three times a week for activity-based learning to support children in primary and middle school, as well as those who have dropped out. We focus on basic literacy and numeracy, as well as skills in music, art and sports and in the languages we bring to the group: Santali, Kora, Bengali and English.
The group aims to:
- Help improve the standards of literacy and numeracy achieved by those who attend school regularly;
- Support both the literacy and the confidence of those whose school attendance is poor;
- Facilitate the acquisition of Bengali literacy by Santal and Kora children by teaching young children in their mother tongues;
- Introduce and demonstrate activity-based teaching and learning methods to local children and to interested local teachers;
- Contribute to making education accessible, enjoyable and relevant to previously excluded populations such as adivasi children and especially adivasi girls.
The Early Learning Group makes special efforts to make education a positive experience for adivasi girls.
- We have a policy which gives adivasi girls priority admission.
- We discuss gender in our workshops, and how it can influence educational experience and outcomes.
- We use materials which depict positive images of girls.
- We encourage mixed team interaction in our teaching.
- In our sports afternoon we take care to encourage girls to participate equally.
Who we are
Bhabini Baskiteaches literacy through both Santali and Bengali to pre-school age children. She is also an expert singer and dancer.
Somnath Dolui teaches Bengali literacy to our neo-literates and creative writing to our literates. He also often takes the role of ‘games manager’.
Jhuma Gonrai teaches village-based Environmental Science and creative writing to our literates. She is also responsible for managing the library.
Sushanta Ghosh teaches numeracy in all classes. He actively participates in all aspects of the Early Learning Group, and is proving to be an excellent singer.
Santo Korateaches literacy through Kora and Bengali to children in the early school years and is developing teaching materials in the Kora language.
Rajeshwari Kora teaches literacy through Kora and Bengali to pre-school children and facilitates learning-through-play.
Rubai Hazda teaches sports and games every Friday afternoon at the village playing field.
Subodra Hansda teaches sports alongside Rubai and provides a role model for girls in sports.
Kirsty Milward teaches English on a voluntary basis to our literate class and in smaller doses to our pre- and neo-literates. She also plays a key role in management and administration.
Gopal Saha teaches Art and Craft on a voluntary basis to the whole group and arranges sessions with local artisans to teach indigenous crafts.
Aruna Majhi teaches literacy through Bengali in the pre-school classes, on a voluntary basis.
Uma Gonrai provides key inputs on a voluntary basis to our ‘remedial’ work for children who are slower in acquiring literacy.
Taposh Majhi teaches English on a voluntary basis in the ELG and provides key inputs on teaching methods and strategy in our skills development workshops.