Integral Child Education Programme (Balwadi), Ushagram Trust

Project Brief: Pre-primary schooling centers (Balwadis) for 3-6 year old children in 12 villages in Nadia District, West Bengal
Project Type: Pre-Primary (description)
Primary Focus: other (description)

Secondary Focus: other

Area: Rural
Supporting Chapter Contact: CentralNJ
Status: completed - requirements ended
Project Steward: Anindya Roy
Project Partner(s): Subir Bhattacharjee
Other Contacts:
Project Address: , Ushagram Trust,P.O.- Birnagar,,Vill.- Ushagram,
Tel: +91 (03473) 261-084
Stewarding Chapter: CentralNJ
Sep 2008CentralNJUSD 5000

Total = $5000

Ushagram Trust runs 12 Balwadis (pre-primary schooling centers for 3-6 year old children) in 12 villages. This serves as an essential component of holistic development of children from those villages, almost all of them coming from poor families.

Incidentally, Asha CNJ supports another effort of this trust, Vidyaniketan Sishu Bihar ( ), a school up to standard IX for the children in the region.

Many of these students are first-time literates, hence retaining them in formal schools and assisting them to perform is a challenge in itself. This goal is not satisfied by setting up only primary and secondary schools. The site visit report (June 2008) indicates the efficiency of pre-primary schooling centers (which have been running since 1974 with assistance from various national and international agencies like UNICEF, Govt. of Republic of Ireland, Govt. of West Bengal etc.) in achieving this purpose. The need of Balwadis is greatly accentuated by under-performing government anganwadis.

In these centers the children acquire basic skills like identifying numbers, letters, colors in joyful environment. The high dedication of Balwadi teachers, helping to run these centers with abysmally low salary deserve a special mention.

As of the 2008-2009 academic year, these centers all together have about 350 students, the number is down from 478 students in previous year (mostly indicating a successful family planning program in the region) and 24 teachers.
a) To ensure that less number of drop-out cases occur at the primary and secondary level of schooling.
b) To ensure that the children acquire the basic pre-primary education skills, e.g., identifying numbers, letters, etc.
c) To create a better working condition for parents, especially mothers, by taking care of their children.
d) To strengthen trust of the people in the locality (which is largely in place to begin with) so that other projects of UT like micro-credit programmes, women's self-help group etc. become more successful.

The centers follow study materials which have been found to be suitable and appropriate for the concerned age group. Many charts and diagrams, for example, are used to help children grasp things more easily.

Asha for Education, Central NJ, is in dialogue with the project partner to see if it's possible to bring all the children in the region (where Ushagram Trust operates) to attend their balwadis, as this might offset the inefficiency of the anganwadis in the region to some extent.

This is a new project for Asha CNJ; primarily due to resource constraints the funding has been limited to USD 5000, all of which would be utilized to support the teacher salaries. Funds are to be given in 2 installments, amounts of which are to be determined by project stewards in consultation with the trust.
History of the Ushagram Trust and foundation of the school :

Gopal Chandra Chakravarty, the founder of the Ushagram Trust, purchased a piece of consolidated but fallow land in the year 1968 and embarked on the mission of setting up a Tapoban type Ashramic Vidyalaya for children as well as for the socio-economic
development of the people around. A free Primary School was set up under improvised sheds in the year 1974 for
imparting education to the children of the locality, where school-going habits never existed before. This marked the inception of VSB. As a sequel to the
partition of the country, the original residents left the place for East Pakistan and uprooted families from East Pakistan
(now Bangladesh) settled in these areas.

Currently, under the umbrella of its education programs, Ushagram Trust runs VSB, 12 Balwadis (pre-school and primary learning centers, some of which were established as early as in 1984-85, more centers being set up in rather recent years), and a children's hostel. It also runs the State Open School (Rabindra Mukta Vidyalaya) - a major center for non-formal higher education, the Ushagram Gramin Library and book bank, and a adult literacy program.

As far as the logistics go, a Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator form the bridge between the School and the Trust.