- Early Childhood Care
Early childhood care and development focused the age group of 2-5 years by providing nutritional food, imparting learning through play way methods, concentration on early childhood development skills with adequate health care and hygiene promotion activities.
Pre-school education centres (balwadis) have been a part of REAL’s work over the past decade. These centres introduce children to education, cognitive learning and provide health and nutritional care. Run by locally appointed Preschool teachers, children from 2 to 5 years learn rhymes, songs and dances. The pre-school centers also take care of older siblings from the responsibility of caring for younger members of their family and allow them to attend school.
- Supplementary Education Centres
The children in the age group of 6 – 15 years are provided with supplementary education after regular school hours. These Supplementary Education and Recreation Centres (SERC) provide additional educational support for children in need of improved performance in school. These centres help to strengthen the stakeholders’ efforts to work towards building a child focused and child rights oriented community, in conjunction with parent teachers associations, child protection committees, and children watch dog committees to ascertain the rights of the children.
- Promoting Child Rights
Asserting child rights has been a major drive in all our activities across various projects. To achieve awareness about child rights, various clubs have been formed in the rural villages, and these clubs were provided with training and capacity building to improve and strengthen the activities concerning child rights. Child rights and child protection were conversed in educational programmes, and children’s parliaments were conducted in several villages to highlight issues related to them. These children’s parliaments were linked with other stakeholders such as the village education committee, the village watch dog committee, the child protection committee etc. This has paved the way to increase the awareness level among the village population and to work on issues related to child protection at the school and community level.
With a focus on ensuring child rights and child participation, children’s groups have been formed in the villages. Activities geared towards importance of education, personal hygiene & health, social skills & values, and child rights today has brought in noticeable changes in their values and behavior, cleanliness, better social skills and personal hygiene. Campaigns were conducted by children to highlight the importance of child rights on special days such as the International Child Rights Day, Children’s Day and Child Labour Day over the period of three years. About 200 children representatives from various villages actively participate every year in the rally and talent enrichment programmes. Awareness programmes at the school level were undertaken by the children to create awareness among the community on child rights and all the children were encouraged to pursue their studies diligently.
- Setting up of District Child Resource Centre
In order to address the problems affecting children in a more comprehensive and systematic way, REAL initiated the District Child Resource Centre (DCRC). The purposes of the Resource Centre are to coordinate activities of likeminded organizations related to children issues, to provide a place where organizations can learn and share experiences related to working with children, and to facilitate discussions on developing child friendly schools and district. A steering committee at the district level has been set up to take responsibility for the overall coordination of the Resource Centre. The responsibility of the committee is to ensure that government institutions, schools, NGOs and local panchayat work together at all levels to respect, protect and fulfill children’s rights.
At present the DCRC is managed by a full-time coordinator. So far, activities have been carried out within existing structures and budget. However, the longer term goal of fulfilling children’s social, economic and cultural rights will require some more extended financial and technical support for at least another year and restructuring of responsibilities within the existing operational mechanism. This would ensure the DCRC to continue its dialogue with likeminded organizations gradually widening its scope to include more children and other community members.
- Non Residential Bridge Courses
The NRBC was aimed at young people who missed out an opportunity or were unable to complete their education. The Centre provided the opportunity for those children who were unable to continue their education due to various reasons. Regular sessions were conducted for the children in order to structure their educational level and enable them to be mainstreamed into normal schools.
· Children’s Parliament
Children’s parliament is yet another initiative started among the CRC children in the villages as an effort to help the children to realize their rights, responsibilities and power when they are united. A model parliament with Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and concerned ministers has been formed among the children. The Parliament is convened once in six months where, issues related to children are discussed and problems are chalked out to realize their rights and responsibilities. The parliament members also have regular liaison with the respective village level watch dog committees, child protection committees, CBO leaders, teachers and government officials for redressing their grievances. This initiative has greatly helped to develop self-esteem and self-confidence among the children. This exercise has also paved the way for the children to understand and be informed of the political setup in the country and the way in which Parliament works in a democracy. Thus they have been exposed to information enabling them to grow up as responsible citizens with the capacity to participate effectively in the political system, and with new and dynamic values benefiting the community.
- Parents Teachers Association
Even when enrolment into schools is successfully done, there is no assurance that the children, once enrolled, will continue to attend school regularly. In order to monitor this, we elicited the cooperation of their mothers. Women groups thus emerged. They were asked to be members of the PTA along with the teachers and the REAL staff. PTA monitors the performance of children enrolled in school. By strengthening the PTAs, we have sensitized the school headmaster, teachers and parents on the issues of children’s education, rights and protection. It has been fruitful in creating a working relationship between the parents and the teachers regarding the children’s education and their rights and protection. PTAs exist in all the target villages at present and these village level PTAs have been mainstreamed with the already existing school level PTAs in the respective areas.
- Community Library
Children in the coastal villages do not have access to learning materials in their schools. To acquaint and familiarize children with a variety of literature and to promote the habit of self-study and reading, a community library has been established at the Marakanam Higher Secondary School. It houses textbooks, guides and books on child rights, human rights, social awareness, general reading, cultural and artistic oriented books, magazines and newspapers for the use of the local school going children and for those who attend the CRC and supplementary education centres (SERC). Our efforts with the school administration have also resulted in including a library hour in the school timetable. This library hour is earmarked with objectives of improving reading skills, developing comprehension skills and promoting self-learning habits. It also facilitates teachers to conduct multi-grade teaching strategies. Children are exposed to variety of literature. The library at present caters to the needs of 1500 children.