The word ‘Samarthya’ means enabled. Started by eight Teach For India alumni, Samarthya is based out of Delhi and they aim at creating community led public schools. Samarthya is working with parents whose children go to government schools. Samarthya was essentially set up to mitigate the larger problems that school, parents and teachers face by bringing an accessible solution to it. They wanted to bridge the gap between the parents and the school.
As per Section 21 of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), every government and government aided school must have a School Management Committee (SMC). The Delhi government has given 15 duties to the SMC which include
- ensuring implementation of RTE norms and standards,
- monitoring utilisation of grants and
- overseeing mid-day meal distribution in the school.
RTE mandates that each SMC be comprised of at least 75% parents and at least 50% women. The parent members of SMCs are elected every two years in Delhi.
What is Samarthya
Samarthya is in its 14th month of operations. Samarthya operates with the belief that by spending quality time with parents, conducting energetic and engaging sessions with them and by showing them ways to bring about systemic change in public education; they can start a conversation around it.
Rishabh, one of the co-founders of Samarthya says, “We hope that 10 years down the line when parents, in communities like Gokalpur in Delhi, have a problem with their child’s education, they will get involved. If they have a problem with how the school is managed, they will contest elections to become a member of the school management committee.”
Let’s take the case of
- Rajesh Ji, is an SMC member in a school in Gokalpur village in Delhi. To make sure that adequate amount of water is available at their school, he made sure that his SMC gets an underground water tank constructed in the school by school funds.
- Anil Kumar: For the past one year, Anil is working with the system to rectify the problem of lack of space in his school. Such has been the efforts of Anil that now after 1 year of consistent school visits and after filing multiple grievances, no teacher is seen out of class and all basic facilities are in place. He is not only a retired soldier and the Vice Chairperson of the SMC of a school in Yamuna Vihar but also an inspiration for team Samarthya.
These empowered parents are what Samarthya is hoping to create so that children get a quality education as promised by the law.
The Logical Indian spoke to Rishabh, he said, “With children not learning and massive child right violations, we are very far away from the kind of education each child deserves. It makes the task seems daunting if seen from a singular perspective. We want to change the perception of communities about public education. We want to make them realise that irrespective of their caste, creed or economic status, their children should be studying in a school with basic infrastructural facilities and where excellence is not the exception but the norm. If we could enhance their sense of possibility with information and bright spots, we can make this an easy task.”
He further added, “Our model of intervention is based on strengthening the SMCs. These committees help in building a critical bridge between the community and school. It also plays the additional role of providing oversight in schools to ensure all basic requirements of the school are being met as per the Right To Free and Compulsory Education Act Guidelines, 2009”.
Model of intervention
Upon research, it can be found out that only 9.5% schools comply with RTE norms and standards. On paper, the parents might be members of the SMC, but they are hardly aware of how these committees function and what duties they have as SMC members. Samarthya is working with parent members of the SMCs of 14 government schools in Delhi. They are currently working in 4 communities of Delhi namely: Ghonda, Gokalpur, Mohan Garden (Uttam Nagar West) and Matiala.
Samarthya is emphasising on parents and creating community leaders out of these parents. Samarthya works on the premise that if parents know about the kind of education their children are entitled to under RTE, they’d work with the school authorities and the local bureaucracy to ensure public schools children get a quality education. Rishabh said, “Once they know the kind of education the law promises their children, they’d walk the extra mile to ensure that their children get the same”.
Samarthya conducts bi-monthly training sessions in which they inform and equip parents with the knowledge and skills required to ensure children get their right as per RTE and parents can perform their duties as SMC members. Parents are informed on how to go about solving issues in the school and most importantly, they are trained about grievance redressal and nitty-gritties of the process, as in how to escalate the matter to the higher authorities etc.
“We focus on building knowledge about RTE provisions, norms and standards and local government structures as well. We try to educate them about their responsibilities and their duties. We also try to skill them in performing these duties. Communication, inquiry, critical thinking are the few core areas that we focus on. Creating a mindset of problem-solving is another area of intervention we have ” he added.
Impact on parents
In the last 14 months, Samarthya has informed 238 parents across Delhi.They have seen parental participation increase in SMCs over the last 9 months. They have witnessed the power of informed citizenry and parent leadership. “Parents are successfully organising Parent Teacher Meets and they are playing an active role in overseeing mid-day meal distribution. We have seen parents systematically resolve grievances such as teacher absenteeism, no electricity, no water supply just to name some,” Rishabh said, his voice resonating with happiness and confidence.
The Logical Indian community applauds the efforts taken up by Rishabh and his team-mates at Samarthya. We hope that he keeps empowering parents and ensuring quality education for children in the long run.
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