In the city of Pune, there is a girl of age 12, Grade VII belonging to an economically disadvantaged background. She comes across as shy, reserved and refuses to speak to anyone around her. During one of the debates on alcohol, she stirs up and goes into a heartfelt, impassioned monologue. It was about how her life changed when she lost her father to alcohol, that how her mother started working to provide them 2 square meals a day.
The girl shared her pain, and in sharing her grief, she experienced healing. In that space, she got an avenue where she could express without being judged, a safe space where she could just – be herself.
The Apprentice Project, a brainchild of Anand Gopakumar, Monica Pesswani and Prashant Kumar is the organisation responsible for creating such spaces which help children discover their true potential and unique individuality.
The problem that The Apprentice Project (TAP) is trying to solve is something that is heard like a broken record, but there are seldom any practical and concrete steps taken towards this endeavour.
Anand and Prashant, both of them who worked as Teach For India fellows as full-time teachers with students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, experienced a couple of common problems while being immersed in the classroom for two years. They experienced that teachers struggle with behaviour management of the students and are unable to keep students engage during the classes, there is a strong disconnect between the education in the classroom and the real world and most of all there is a complete absence of meaning and purpose for the students.
The following statistics give a small sneak peek to validate some of the challenges that they have experienced during their time in the classroom. 32% of children in India drop out of school because they think education is unnecessary. 77% of children enrol in class 10, but enrolment in class 11 drops to an alarming 52%. As you can imagine the outcomes, 47% of graduates in India are not employable for any industry role even though only 22% of employers design domain expertise.
“These statistics are the reason for TAP’s formation. This is the crisis that The Apprentice Project (TAP) aims to resolve” says Prashant Kumar.
The core belief and the fundamental guiding principle that The Apprentice Project (TAP) works on is – “Learn what you love, teach what you love.”
With this belief as a starting point, The Apprentice Project (TAP) embarked on a journey to include extracurricular and non-academic programs into the school curriculum. Be it football, MUN, dance, debate, public speaking etc.; the children were given spaces to do what they love and the volunteers they raised for the schools were given spaces to teach what you love.
“There was a massive shift in attendance and the children began to love coming to school”; mentioned Monica Pesswani when asked about how the transformation of attendance registers happened.
Academics cannot suffice for survival in the 21st century. The education system needs to take a holistic development approach to prepare kids for the practical world.
This is where The Apprentice Project (TAP) comes into the picture. We give students the life-skill tools that will come in handy in the real world. Co-curricular interest clubs space is identified as the medium of imparting life-skills in an organic manner. Each child is given a choice to learn the co-curricular area of her/his choice. This option of learning what one loves creates a sense of ownership and belonging through intrinsic motivation.” says Anand Gopakumar
After diligent research, The Apprentice Project (TAP) incorporated essential life-skills learning into these four verticals of co-curricular interest clubs:
- Performance Art – Dance, Drama, Music, and Public Speaking
- Visual Arts
- Technical Arts – Coding, and Electronics
TAP follows a two-way model to enable students to make the right choices and delve deeper into their area they love:
- Explore Model: Students of 5th class explore their passions and interest in the extracurricular activities.
- Depth Model: Students make an informed choice about the art they want to pursue, and engage in its immersive ecosystem.
Towards ensuring a holistic development, The Apprentice Project (TAP) does not compromise on the quality of skill that their facilitators bring in. They use a volunteer-driven approach, where all the TAP facilitators are specialists in their field of co-curricular activities who volunteer to provide holistic education to these students.
The facilitators revel in the opportunity to teach what they love which reconnects them with their passions. Also, they get super motivated as they become an active part in transforming the future for the children, bit by bit. And undoubtedly the kids feel enthralled because for the first time in their lives they get to learn what they love. With time, as a conspicuous benefit, they also experience the results of improvement in their life-skills like communication, confidence, critical thinking, awareness about self and the world around, etc.
“To sum up the entire program in one line, it is a WIN-WIN for every stakeholder involved with us,” says Monica Pesswani.
APPEAL TO THE LOGICAL INDIAN COMMUNITY
While we have ushered 19 years into the 21st century, unfortunately, we are still focused on academics, rote learning, marks, ranks which is creating a hyper-competitive world and killing the creativity of the children. The Apprentice Project deeply believes that every star in the child has the right to twinkle and every child’s individuality is to be respected. As adults, our responsibility is in creating the spaces and the environment where children can be their own original self without any fear of judgments, freedom to make informed decisions and above all be happy, secure and at ease.
The Apprentice Project is launching a fellowship where college students, graduates and young professional can enrol with the organisation as volunteers and teach what they love. If you are interested in volunteering with them, please contact Prashant Kumar at [email protected] or call at +91-9886301830
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