June 19th, 2017
When Aditya, Ravi and Shravan went to Jamui and Munger districts of Bihar as a part of their Prime Minister Rural Development Fellowship(PMRDF), they found that situation was very dire; people thought that the only viable options they have were to either migrate to the cities or to take up Naxalism. Farm income was very less, and all towns and villages lacked necessary infrastructure.
Children and youngsters do not have skills and confidence to improve their lives. Added to this they also found that even today most of the people believe that the girl child is a burden, does not need to be educated and 80% of marriages in these districts are child marriages. In the eyes of the villagers, a girl child is a “money drainer”. People did not have the means to learn better skills to equip themselves to make a better livelihood for themselves. The amount of poverty is extreme; many families have an income ranging from Rs 1600 to Rs 5800 per month.
All these circumstances touched these youngsters very deeply and they decided to stay back in these districts after completeing their PMRD fellowship and work for their betterment. They started i-Saksham, which builds local youth as community tutors cum entrepreneurs called ‘Saksham-Mitras’.
Despite all these good intentions and a tremendous amount of hard work, when they go to organisations for funds to support their operations, they are routinely asked why they don’t work out of Delhi or why they worked in such remote areas where it was very hard to get funds. Despite facing so many rejections, they still fight these circumstances every day
The team decided that they would empower the youth in the community to improve their lives and began training youngsters in the villages through community centres. Trainers regularly visit these community centres to teach computer training and teacher training one day a week. Initially, people did not believe in their model and did not come forward. They faced a tremendous amount of challenges in finding suitable youth mentors: very few youngsters came forward.
Each youth mentor called Saksham Mithra can start a small tuition point or coaching centre as an entrepreneur and earn his or her livelihood by getting fees from the children (which ranges from Rs 30 to Rs 50). This is because i-Saksham has a strict policy that fees will be limited to a day’s running cost. Founders and the staff have to double-up as administrators, sahayaks, executives and managers to support the youth mentors on the ground, conduct inspections and ensure that quality is maintained.
Slowly, they began to see a change: they saw that the Saksham Mithras began getting respect in their communities and villages as these youth were now trained and were teaching other children. Villagers are very happy with Saksham Mitras as they can see that their children who could not read or do HM given in school earlier are excited to read and can handle their assignments independently.
Saksham Mitras themselves feel more confident than ever before; they feel they are utilising time more efficiently and are proud of their work, they feel a zeal towards life and want to become something in life. They also like the work they are doing, and they believe the training and support they receive from i-Saksham has enabled them to teach effectively and improve their knowledge.They now think education can indeed give them better opportunities and are looking forward to exploring higher education.
The average income that a community mentor – called Saksham Mithra – can earn is about Rs 1500-2500. Since many mentors are youngsters themselves studying in Class 11 or 12, they use this money that they make towards their school expenses or save for their college. This money is thus helping them support themselves and their family. This additional income helps the family encourage these youngsters to pursue their dreams.
More and more people started coming forward, and then they saw the greatest change that their initiative has achieved and that is the change in the perception of women. Women are no longer seen as “money drainers” but as “income generators”. Women who have perhaps studied till the 10th standard are now able to help other children in the village while bringing in additional income to the family. Additionally, girl children in the village also feel comfortable in approaching female mentors for understanding concepts better and see them as role models.
Currently, there are 100 learning centres which are actively operating. They are directly impacting the lives of 4,000 children and indirectly impacting all these 4,000 families along with the families of Saksham Mithras. By the year 2025, the team aspires to have 50,000 Saksham Mithras and train over 5 lakh youth in various vocational skills.
You can reach out to them at [email protected]; Phone: +91 91990 18050
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