The 2019/20 academic year began in July. There are 418 children enrolled at Hunar Ghar School across thirteen classes, including 40 new children in the pre-school (Balwadi) section of the school. Most are first-generation learners, whose parents have not had the opportunity to go to school themselves. Our partner RBKS encourages all students to attend regularly and makes sure the school is a nurturing and supportive learning environment.
Providing Primary Education
New Classroom Furniture
Returning students were excited to enter their classrooms and find new classroom furniture. Only four classrooms at Hunar Ghar previously had furniture. Younger classes now have new mats and low tables to keep their work off the floor. Older students have tables and benches. Teachers have already noticed improvements in concentration in lessons and are finding it easier to make eye contact with students and maintain their engagement.
Solar Power Providing Reliable Electricity
Solar panels were installed on top of several of the school buildings in August. These are providing a reliable electrical connection for the school. This has many benefits from lighting up learning spaces to enabling school administrative tasks and printing to happen on site, to ensuring power for the water purification system and a refrigerator, so that the school can store medicines when needed. The solar power is even having an impact on how the school engages with community members. Recent community and parent meetings have been enlivened by the sharing of video and photo presentations on a big projector screen, connecting parents more closely with their children’s learning experiences.
Following the introduction of regular PE lessons into the school timetable last year, Hunar Ghar students continue to enjoy their sports activities.
This month, a couple of teams from the school competed in a government organised sports tournament. After qualifying in first place in an initial block level tournament, involving 18 other schools, Hunar Ghar’s kabaddi and kho kho teams went on to compete in a district level tournament in Udaipur, in which over 75 teams participated. Facing stiff competition, the kho kho team went out after the second round. The kabaddi team finished in third place over all, with one player selected to participate in a subsequent state level tournament.
It was a fantastic new experience for all involved. The students who took part have shared how, despite some initial nerves, they enjoyed the chance to interact with, play against and learn from other teams outside the school. Their participation has been a source of much pride for the whole community.
“I congratulate you and your team very much on this victory. Keep playing like this so that your name and your school name will be illuminated…Children have been given a big platform and have got a chance to play at the district and state level.” Hunar Ghar Parent
“Win-lose is part of the game, no matter if you lose…From small school to reaching the state level is not a small thing. The name of our village has been illuminated.” Brother of one of the kabaddi team players
Community Health Outreach Work
Improving Child Health at Hunar Ghar
We work closely with a number of partners to monitor Hunar Ghar students’ health. Since the start of the new school year, students have had a full health check by a team of visiting paediatricians from Geetanjali Hospital, have had their eyes tested by a visiting team of eye specialists from the Global Hospital and Research Centre (GHRC) and have received their rubella vaccinations from local government health workers at a special camp organised by RBKS.
Regular Mobile Clinic Service
The mobile health clinic service provided by the GHRC continues to visit the community on a regular basis. It is now stopping in an additional location to increase the reach of the service. Over 50 community members benefit each time it visits.
Maternal and Infant Healthcare and Support
Our preliminary data from 2018/19 in relation to our maternal and infant health work is very encouraging. Since the outset of our programmes to support pregnant women and their young families, the number of women receiving full antenatal care and support has more than tripled; the number of women giving birth with a skilled attendant present has more than doubled; and the under five mortality rate has been halved. These are outcomes to be celebrated and are a tribute to the hard work of the RBKS community health workers who are vital to the success of our interventions.
New Partnership with Friendsline
In August, Educate for Life and RBKS began an exciting new partnership with Friendsline, a UK organisation which uses technology to provide mental health seminars to women and girls in developing countries.
Friendsline is working with RBKS team members to deliver weekly mindfulness and yoga seminars at Hunar Ghar, benefitting female students and community members. These sessions are causing much merriment as no-one has ever done yoga before. There is a lot of laughter as new poses are tried out for the first time!
It’s great to be raising the profile of the importance of mental health within the school and the community. Friendsline provides the digital content for the seminars and local RBKS team members facilitate each session.
Improving Secondary Education
100% Onward Enrolment in Secondary Education
A key way we are measuring the success of the education provided by Hunar Ghar Primary School, is to monitor how many students decide to continue their studies at secondary level. This year, all final year students from the 2018/19 academic year have gone on to secondary school, following excellent exam results with 76% achieving A or B grades overall.
Supporting Hunar Ghar Graduates
There are now nearly 50 Hunar Ghar graduates attending seven different secondary schools, some are studying locally at government schools, others are at residential schools further away from Bakhel. All are studying hard and are inspiring younger students to believe that they too can continue their studies beyond Hunar Ghar.
There are challenges to students continuing at secondary level, and we are reviewing the support we are able to sustainably provide. This year, we will support the provision of additional tuition camps in school holidays for all former Hunar Ghar students now studying in Class 9 and Class 10, to help address any challenges they are facing with their learning.
We continue to work through our partner, Kshamtalaya, to improve the quality of education provided at two government secondary schools in the vicinity of Hunar Ghar, Mandwa and Jhed Secondary Schools. Our work with Kshamtalaya is addressing complex challenges within the education system, not least lack of adequate resources, frequent changes of school leadership and lack of community engagement, all contributing to low attendance and low learning outcomes.
We are very aware that change will be gradual and only possible if all stakeholders are actively and willingly involved. Kshamtalaya recently worked with local government and civil society organisations to organise an education dialogue in Kotra, the administrative area where Mandwa and Jhed schools are located. This event brought together government education officials, school leaders and teachers and community members. This is the first time all these stakeholders have had the opportunity to meet and discuss what good school governance could look like. Stakeholders shared challenges and agreed ways of improving schools’ accountability and involving local community leaders in school governance.
Alongside this work to create and implement a shared vision for successful schools, Kshmatalaya is directly supporting students at Mandwa and Jhed Schools with their learning. There are now two Kshamtalaya Fellows at each secondary school with different subject specialities. The excitement when students at Mandwa learnt that they were going to have a science teacher was tangible!
The Fellows have been undergoing training to assist them with developing their lesson plans and classroom management skills. They are feeling confident about using a variety of interactive activities according to the individual needs of their students. An ongoing priority is to strengthen the literacy and numeracy of students so that they are able to enjoy secondary level curriculum content and become effective independent learners.
We are very grateful to all who support our work. This includes individuals, organisations and groups like Om Baby and The Little Tug Boat Nursery and the Ealing Mysore Yoga Community, who have been fundraising for us recently.
We are also benefitting from grants from several trusts and foundations. These include the Greenhall Foundation, who have supported our classroom furniture purchase, the Women’s India Association of the UK, which supports our maternal and child health work, the Gregory Mills Foundation, which supports sports activities at Hunar Ghar and school meals, the Brighton Rotary Club and others who prefer not to be named, some of whom have chosen to support our work for the second year in a row.
Thank you for enabling us to make a difference through our work and partnerships to hundreds of people in the remote Bakhel community.