Asha Trust - Project Pearl

Project Brief: An Asha Chennai project that involves working with government schools and communities in rural areas of Thoothukudi district in the areas of education, health & hygiene, community-based intervention and rights-based work.
Project Type: Formal Schools (description)
Primary Focus: to go to formal school (description)

Secondary Focus: health and cleanliness

Area: Rural
Supporting Chapter Contact: Chennai
Status: current / ongoing
Project Steward: Bhaskar Venkateswaran
Project Partner(s): Ezhilkumaran Kesavraj
Other Contacts: Ezhilkumaran Kesavraj
Project Address: , ,,,
Stewarding Chapter: Chennai
Oct 2018ChennaiUSD 1556
Jun 2018ChennaiUSD 17726
Sep 2017ChennaiUSD 15849
Aug 2017ChennaiUSD 1758
May 2017ChennaiUSD 14348
May 2017ChennaiINR 121687
Oct 2015ChennaiUSD 6238
May 2015ChennaiUSD 9123
May 2014ChennaiUSD 2639
Feb 2013ChennaiUSD 5119
Oct 2011ChennaiUSD 750
Sep 2011ChennaiUSD 5857
Nov 2010ChennaiUSD 9375
Jun 2010ChennaiUSD 8510

Total = $101500.7766

Thoothukudi or Tuticorin is called as "Pearl city" because it is famous for pearl fishery. Thoothukudi district is in the south of TamilNadu and is one of the backward districts in terms of economic indicators, social progress and industrialization. It is also a notoriously dry district and agriculture is completely dependent on the monsoons. Some of the blocks in this district are rain-shadow regions and receive no more than 10-15 days of rains in a year. Livelihood options for the people here are quite limited and migration to urban areas in search of jobs is quite common. With respect to education, access to schools for the underprivileged children is not an issue, especially at the primary school level (classes 1-5) but the quality of education is quite suspect.

A couple of Asha Chennai volunteers visited several remote government schools in three blocks of Thoothukudi namely Ottapidaram, Vilathikulam and Kayathar during the 2008-09 academic year. We identified schools where the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) was more than the government-mandated ratio of 40:1, visited them and interacted with the school teachers to understand the issues they were facing. Activity-Based Learning (ABL) was introduced for all primary level classes in TamilNadu about three years back. Teachers need to dedicate a lot more time to students on an individual basis under this methodology. Our interaction with teachers in these schools and several schools over the past couple of years presented a common picture - the mandated PTR of 40:1 was way too high and the ABL methodology would be absolutely ineffective in such a scenario. It was obvious that a lot of these schools absolutely need additional teachers to help out with ABL, to provide normal education to the students and for the smooth functioning of the schools.

Asha Chennai's involvement will start with appointment of additional teachers to supplement government teachers in some of the following panchayat schools:
1. Middle school at Nagalapuram - Kayathar block
2. Primary school at Panickar Kulam - Kayathar block
3. Primary school at Melamanthai - Vilathikulam block
4. Middle school at Anaindha Madan Patcheri - Ottapidaram block
5. Primary school at A.Velayudhapuram - Ottapidaram block

We also plan to set up community centers in a couple of the above villages to provide children and adults access to newspapers, magazines and books.
The goals of the project are aimed at encompassing four main components - education, health & hygiene, community center and rights-based work. We are aware that our intervention is only a short- to medium-term solution but several things such as government’s pro-active role in improving the quality of education, teachers’ commitment to their students, community’s involvement in the education of their wards, etc are absolutely necessary for a satisfactory and sustainable long term solution.
In the initial one or two years of the project, we plan to gather as much information and feedback for some of the components in order to determine an optimal course and direction.

Education - Our starting goal is to reduce the high pupil-teacher ratio in a few government schools. The inadequacy of teachers leads to poor standards in education, and insufficient stimulation for children. In keeping with Asha Chennai’s goals, Project Pearl aims to provide trained and qualified teachers to the selected schools in Thoothukudi district. We also plan to actively engage and seek cooperation from the district education officers and the school staff during the project execution in the areas of improving quality of education, providing adequate infrastructure, permission to conduct evaluations, etc.

Health and Hygiene - The project’s aim in this area is to introduce health and hygiene concepts to school children through the teachers, and encouraging them to spread awareness to the community at large. We plan to adopt best practices from other NGOs which have successfully implemented such programs.

Community involvement - We plan to establish a community center/library in a couple of villages that all people locally will have access to. This would be a starting point for us to gain the trust of the villagers so as to design and implement community intervention projects in the areas of education, health and advocacy.

Rights-based work - The initial work will involve gathering information related to appointment of teachers, fund flow to schools, infrastructure work and expenditure at schools, etc using the Right To Information (RTI) Act. This could provide us with insights and avenues to pursue some of these rights/funds that might have been denied.