Door Step School Foundation

Nurturing Astitva at their Door Step

Thousands of nomadic, tribal, and rural individuals each year migrate all over Maharashtra for a better living. Forced to keep moving and call slums and pavements their homes, a significant aspect of their lives that tends to get neglected is their education. Most children from such communities are first-generation learners or drop-outs. Their educational foundations tend to be shaky or negligible, with their families unable to provide for them.

An organization performing commendable work towards alleviating this is the ‘Astitva Foundation.’ By setting up residential schools, or Gurukuls, the NGO works tirelessly towards such children’s overall development; through sports, libraries, vocational training, and a lot more. Though such resolute institutions provide books to children in huge quantities, they often tend to be big – heavy – for new readers. Moreover, setting up libraries, though a massive accomplishment, brings many more challenges in their functioning, which tend to go unnoticed. They end up as buildings children occasionally visit during school hours – not to be even looked at during the rest of the day.

With our emphasis and expertise in teaching basic literacy and reading skills and our commitment to improving learning opportunities within and beyond classrooms, DSSF, under its Networking and Nurturing Project, decided to approach the organization. Thanks to our very own Phadke Sir, we had the chance to share this responsibility with ‘Astitva’ at their Gurukul in Veer. 

We began by assessing the situation on-field. Subsequently, our focus shifted towards developing the children’s reading ability – an effort headed by our beloved Shobha Tai. We currently advance towards our next goal – setting up a library there by March of this year. We believe this is essential to give the students more opportunities to build on what they learn through reading. DSSF provided 243 of its vibrant, concise, and enriching books to the children there, and reading classes are already underway. We cannot thank Priyanka Tai enough for continuing to oversee this library programme and its various activities.

Today, our collaboration with ‘Astitva’ approaches its 2-year mark. Even students at the Mulakshar Gat (alphabet level) now read books – all in just 2-3 months. We are delighted to thus stand by our endeavour and promise – basic literacy in 120 days. Yet, as Phadke Sir reminds us: “it’s not only about improvement in their academic performances.”

Children who don’t know how to read feel ashamed – unwilling to go to school. Therefore, self-understanding and confidence – Main kar sakta hoon (I can do it) – become essential for their future. It is thus heartwarming to see the passion and love for learning that these children develop as a result of our guidance.

On top of a pedagogy full of games and activities, we feel our books play a huge role in this. From letters and matras to short stories – these copies may be thin and light but leave a profound, illuminating impact on children’s lives. Whether a child reads a 100-page book or a 10-page one, the satisfaction they’d get after “I read a book” would be significant. Our readers tend to leverage this human nature. The higher number of books they read only fills them with confidence, satisfaction – and motivation to read more.

At DSSF, we take a holistic approach to the education process. Of course, this would be incomplete without teachers and their training.

Our traditional school systems tend to be atomistic when it comes to delivering syllabi. According to RTE (Right to Education), an 8-year-old first-time learner would be enrolled in 3rd grade, irrespective of their educational base – based on age. This makes teaching children from such underprivileged backgrounds – first-timers and drop-outs from across age groups – a tedious task for teachers. Thus, DSSF also provides training to teachers as a part of its ‘Parivartan’ project.

Including ‘Astitva,’ DSSF has partnered with six other organizations to start libraries and reading classes, as a part of our ‘Networking and Nurturing Project.’

We are glad that such efforts towards the growing Astitva of so many individuals – teachers and students – went through our doorsteps, which remain open to serve and share. 

Written by Yashit Jain
Astitva Foundation

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