Exclusive interview with Dr.Neelam Gupta, Founder President & CEO, AROH Foundation - IdeapreneurIndia-Entrepreneur's Daily Dose


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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Exclusive interview with Dr.Neelam Gupta, Founder President & CEO, AROH Foundation

Dr.Neelam Gupta, Founder President & CEO, AROH Foundation

Exclusive interview with Dr.Neelam Gupta, Founder President & CEO, AROH Foundation 

Ideapreneur India spoke to Dr. Neelam Gupta, Founder & President, AROH Foundation, to know more about projects, and how the NGO is gearing up its RISE project to bring a change in the marginalized community in India.

IdeapreneurIndia - When and how did you start the project - Remedial Innovation in School Education?

AROH’s project of remedial education started in the year 2009 with the name Padho aur Badho supported by GAIL and RECL for underprivileged children of Madhya Pardesh Jhabua, Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda. The agenda was to enroll children in government schools, decrease drop outs and enhance learning outcomes. But with the advent of Right to Education Act, the enrolment part of PAB was not needed anymore, and so PAB was revamped into the RISE (Remedial Innovation in School Education) model, which was designed to enhance learning outcomes of government school children, residing in urban slums of Delhi. This model was replicated for more than 10000 children in Delhi slums.  RISE started off in the year 2016 in the slums of Sangam Vihar and Mundka of Delhi. By far RISE has catered to more than 5000 children. 

IdeapreneurIndia - What challenges did you faced in this project?

With an extensive presence at ground for more than 10 years now, RISE’s experienced various challenges that children, especially girls, from poor and marginalized background are the worst sufferers in the present education system. Poor socio economic background, ignorance and illiteracy of parents, indifference of teachers to poor students, lack of conducive learning environment, no reinforcement of learning at home, low value of education in the families were found to be the reasons for their educational backwardness.

While initiating & executing the project, it started with the unawareness of the community where parents weren't allowing to send their children to study by giving extra time because they thought that at that time their children would do some work, girls would join hands in the house, take care of their younger siblings, so they were not sending. We did extensive awareness to get them out of all these situations.

Especially, after COVID, one could never expect parents of these children to bear the added burden of smart phones, laptops or even tuition classes, when they already were victims of job loss and health crisis. RISE is proud to claim that learning never stopped even for a day in RISE, as we were far sighted enough to understand the digital shift of education. We were pre – prepared with our online mode of teaching learning without even investing any extra penny in this preparation. In that case, we moulded the study time according to the children so that as many children as possible could be covered even though many migrant families moved to their native villages, but children could continue education through online mode. 

So, especially with advent of COVID, project RISE has been the only source of continuing education. RISE could swiftly switch to online mode of teaching learning with its Blended Learning Module (BLM) uniquely designed by experts. The BLM was designed is a way that the curriculum designed of day to day post based learning can be imparted both in face to face learning and through Whatsapp or zoom video calling way. 

Secondly, we ran a lot of campaigns in which we distributed second hand smartphones & laptops so that the online classes and studies would not be disturbed & could be covered comfortably.

IdeapreneurIndia - What is the vision and objective of this project?

RISE also has an overarching goal of strengthening Government’s efforts towards National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 including the components of access, retention and learning outcomes, especially amongst girls, which is not only a national concern, but also a global issue, voiced as Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4 and 5. The project aims to provide the critical interface for needy children, especially girls and ensure their competency for facing the world.

RISE is working since more than a decade with many objectives. They together aims at Improving learning outcomes & ensuring holistic development in marginalised children and ensure their competency for facing the world.RISE caters to improve access to education, retention and learning outcomes for 500 children in the age group of 6-14 years, at least 50 per cent of them being girls. To enroll and mainstream residual out-of-school children from the disadvantaged and marginalised social groups, residing in rural villages and urban slums. To improve general behavior and health of children covered under the programme.

IdeapreneurIndia - How do you work on this project?

RISE is a pioneering remedial education programme, which aims, not only to build the knowledge of children, but also to create learners, innovators, scholars, researchers. RISE adopts an approach which engages all stakeholders - parents, community, educators and children to bring maximum result and impact of the programme to the children covered.

The project seeks to set up remedial education centres (RISE) to provide remedial education services to poor slum children in slums, 50 per cent of them being girls, to help in bridging the learning deficit in the covered group. 

The project is run in a hub and spoke model, where in each cluster 10 classes are run under one nodal center. In each class 50 students (25 girls and 25 boys) are enrolled under one educator. 

As it is hub and spoke model, each cluster can easily be replicated as per the need and demand of the project. RISE has been replicated & implemented twice by AROH Foundation

Initially we worked on Post-based learning but with the advent of Covid unique Blended Learning Module (BLM) was introduced & adopted. BLM is a uniquely designed audio-video curriculum easily grasped by the students and stays longer in their memories. BLMs are able enough to be catered via online and offline mode by experts. 

RISE educators are also picked up from the target communities, under taken through a series of capacity building sessions to be able to impart RISE’s unique Blended Learning Module (BLM). 

All documentation, reporting and monitoring is done at three tier basis i.e. – on classroom, nodal and head office level by a team of experts. An integrated MIS maintains the data, progress and reports of each beneficiary for transparent reporting.

In RISE, each child is taken care for his/her scholastic improvement, health checks, and psychological and mental build ups through a bouquet of interventions. Not just students, RISE has a provision to also cater to various needs of the families, especially the mothers and also the community for better impact. Overall this is a project which is holistically motivating the child to face the coming competitive world which government schools are not able to provide us much.

IdeapreneurIndia - What are the benefits has been done through this project to the society?

In a framework RISE strategically addresses several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under SDGs 4 & 5, the main goal of RISE lies in ensuring quality education for all & mainstreaming maximum girls and ensuring to them quality and meaningful education through which they can fight for their rights, deliver their duties and participate in global development.

RISE programme has been able to make a significant impact on the lives of the beneficiaries, especially the children, through a model of holistic child centric development. RISE has been able to change the mind-set of parents who were weary of weaning off children from labour so as to supplement family income. Through regular counselling, parents are beginning to understand the value of education and send their children regularly to the centre and to school. 

Home to more than 5,000 children, it is important that at least 20 -25% of the primary targets are touched through project RISE to ensure a sustainable impact within the community. Few of them are already doing well in their secondary education and aiming for a brighter future. RISE programme has been able to make a significant impact on the lives of the beneficiaries, especially the children, through a model of holistic child centric development. 

Valuable education is being provided at the RISE centres which gives erstwhile out of school children and dropouts a distinct advantage in preparing them for formal schooling. It has been reported by both educators as well as parents about the impact the programme has had on children’s behaviour and conduct, sense of hygiene and a motivation to be educated. 

Since the community teachers are from the villages where interventions are carried out, they would be empowered to take care of the children passing out from RISE on long term basis. 

The educators are given regular in-service trainings and capacity building. Parallel livelihood trainings like jewellery making, rakhi making, handicraft items from waste and workshops from experts are done on Madhubani paintings to ensure their livelihood and dignity even after RISE. Few educators are even helped to be placed at better earning jobs and other seek our aid to be guided ahead. Regular and sustained counselling of parents for improved retention and learning outcomes.

Mothers are even beginning to demand education for themselves just like their children. Fathers are also slowly realizing the advantages of educating their children. Parents are encouraging their children to pursue higher education, which in turn is being demanded by the children themselves. There seems to be a sense of excitement and positivity among parents about the prospect of their children being educated and this education eventually resulting in individual empowerment from poverty and empowerment of the community as a whole. 

IdeapreneurIndia - What do you think an individual can do to help rural people with education?

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), the number of students going to school in rural India is increasing. However, more than 50% of the students in the 5th standard is not capable of reading a text book of 2nd standard. They do not know how to solve basic mathematical problems.

Hence, instead of focusing on uplifting literacy rate, it is time that we focus on quality education. Children are required to empower with the quality education and the knowledge that can be applied in their real life.

The rural educational system can be upgraded if one is willing to volunteer for free. Regular coaching classes, counselling sessions & capacity building workshops can be conducted. Liasoning should be this good that people can take the responsibilities of these children and sponsor them. Individuals can organize cleanliness drives and sessions on hygiene and sanitation at schools. College students can introduce and conduct joyful teaching and learning sessions. They can develop training materials and educational tools for children. Also, Develop curriculum for informal education for adolescent girls to enhance their confidence and impart the information on reproductive health.

When people will share their time and effort in volunteering, children will experience immense joy and affections. Volunteering will bring a new sense of belonging by dissipating social barriers, instilling self-confidence, making acquaintances and leading to personal development.

IdeapreneurIndia - How did you managed funds for installing Smart Classes in remote areas?

AROH is a grant based organization. So with the support of CSR corporate partners, with convergence of various schemes more than 500 smart classes have been installed. 

It's an attempt to bridge the digital divide and to provide students with a better classroom experience. Undoubtedly, the smart classes enhanced the student- teacher interaction and give students a better understanding of concepts.

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