Gramodaya: Rural Education Program

A Rural Education model teaching Rural Development to rural children, and help them get local employment. It creates a backbone of rural development professionals in rural areas, to implement rural welfare programmes of the Government and other bodies. Using 70% practical and 30% theoretical approach, it covers all areas of rural development required for that region. After completion, students can join Govt welfare Projects, NGOs or their SERA LABS. Being implemented in 3 villages in West Bengal.

Ancient India, usually referred to as The Golden Bird, was known for its traditional, value based, skill based, Gurukul approach to education. The Vedas and Upanishads are living testimonies of knowledge of that era, that the best brains in the world today, are still trying to decipher. Although our country went through repeated process of disintegration into smaller states, and integration into larger kingdoms, but each process added value, and left its mark of development on our land. India absorbed many cultures, but always kept the dignity of every profession high, so that every individual possessed some skills and had a respectable livelihood. They were therefore no beggars and thieves, as informed by Lord Macaulay to British Parliament.

While ancient India was known in the world, for advancement in Science, Literature, Culture and Spirituality, today’s India in known in the world for ‘Corruption’, ‘Inflation’, ‘Malnutrition’ and ‘Education’. While the first three factors have let India down considerably, the fourth factor that stood its ground until now, also saw a steep decline recently. The primary reason behind this was, the fast privatization of Education, without strict regulation. Result, mushrooming institutes and universities, lacking academic and professional expertise, started churning out “certified professionals”, through a rote-learning manufactory. When these professionals went out to work, they were found incompetent and incapable. Today Indian universities DO NOT even figure in the Top 200 universities of the world.

The entire education system in India, following colonial patterns, has converged towards glamorous, package rich, urban centric professions. And in the name of universalization, the same urban focussed education, is also being given to rural children. Rural children therefore find no relation between the content and their context, and hence drop out midway. On the other hand, rural development education is given by top ranking B-schools situated in urban areas, to urban children, at astronomical costs.

What are we trying to do for the past 72 years? Giving ‘urban education’ to rural children and ‘rural education’ to urban children? Result are glaring and horrifying.

Children in rural India, generally do not seek education beyond schooling, as they need to eke a living soon. With irrelevant education, and no livelihood or rural development skills, they leave villages and migrate to cities. Some determined rural children pursue higher education, and also move to cities to pursue their professions. And those urban youth, who are groomed for rural development, rarely go to rural areas to work. Result, villages are losing self-sufficiency, and slowly dying because of migration.

Most Rural development programmes are not implemented properly, because of lack of skilful human resources locally. Rural development professionals from B-Schools, with little rural orientation, cannot do much, but drain away big chunk of funds, as salaries and perks.

An obvious question arises here: ‘If rural development has such great employment potential, why do rural youth migrate for employment to urban areas? Why can’t rural children be educated in rural development, so that they can earn a livelihood, by developing better infrastructure and facilities in rural areas?

GRAMODAYA – A Rural Awakening’ aims to bring rural development education to rural children at their doorstep, at school level, so that they become employable locally, after completing schooling.

With a 2-year curriculum devised by the best rural development academicians, for rural adolescent children, Gramodaya helps each student attain expertise in any 2 areas of rural development as per their choice, and also mainstreams them with the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).

The features of GRAMODAYA are:

    1. Collaboration with Institutes of repute on Rural Development and Social Work, Soil and Agricultural Sciences, Forest management, Micro-finance, Technology and Alternative Energy, etc for curriculum development and teachers training.
    2. Collaboration with NGOs of repute in Rural Development, and Government’s rural development Projects, for practical learning by students.
    3. A 2-year full-time Rural Development course for Std 8th & 10th pass rural children.
    4. Double certification by National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and GRAMODAYA.
    5. Free education / Nominal fee based, with a blend of 70% practical and 30% theoretical learning, using advanced teaching methodologies and practices.
    6. Compulsory orientation on village governance, traditional art and craft forms, community mobilization, resource mapping.
    7. Proficiency / Specialization in following areas depending on local needs and issues:
      1. Watershed + Stop Dam Building + Rain Water Harvesting
      2. Participatory Approach + Community Development + Community Forest Management
      3. SHG Development + Co-operative + Micro-finance + Producer’s Company
      4. Health Services (Para Medical + Ayurvedic)
      5. Tractor Repairing + Farm Machine Tools Repairing
      6. Sanitation and Health
      7. Water Purification – providing potable water
      8. Bio Gas + Bio Fuel + Alternative Energy
      9. Information + Communication Technology
      10. Poultry + Animal Husbandry + Veterinary Services
      11. Organic Farming + Farm Management
      12. Waste Management + Vermicompost
      13. Pissiculture
      14. Civil infrastructure (Road Laying, Bridge making, etc)
      15. Vernacular Infrastructure (Housing, incl plumbing, electrification, etc.)
      16. NTFP based Enterprise management, Market linkages for rural products.
    8. Each student will specialize in any two available areas of his/her choice, plus related subjects of National Open School (NIOS) curriculum.
    9. The pass outs from GRAMODAYA will be able to do the following:
      1. Provide services to Panchayats, Block Administration, etc in a consultancy mode for implementing Govt welfare schemes & NREGA.
      2. Get employed by State Welfare departments, and various NGOs engaged in rural development, to implement their programmes.
      3. Will form community groups with other youth to implement rural development projects directly.
      4. Will spread to other Panchayats and Blocks to start GRAMODAYAs there.
      5. Students interested in Higher education, will pursue undergraduate vocational courses in Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and other Universities across India.
    10. The constructive, long time, local engagement of GRAMODAYA Students, will create an aspiration among other adolescent in rural areas, that will be more attractive than migrating to cities for work. The demand from neighbouring villages adolescent and youth will replicate the model everywhere.

A GRAMODAYA in each Block, is planned as follows:

    1. A Public Private Partnership model.
    2. Assisted by Govt. departments, Institutes, Banks, NGOs and Small businesses in that district.
    3. Managed by an Advisory Body of Academicians, Practitioners, and Local Administration.
    4. Land allocated by Panchayat / Gram Sabha
    5. Each GRAMODAYA will be set up with initial funding support, and application of schemes wherever available, and subsequently reach self-sustainability over 5 years.
    6. An educational loan based mechanism will be explored with Banks, Philanthropists, and CSR, to sustain the expenses of every child and the school.

The Advantages of GRAMODAYA are:

    1. It helps converge intellect and knowhow from everywhere, to create a resource pool for rural development in rural India.
    2. It helps retain the best brains in rural areas for rural development.
    3. It creates a platform for encouraging urban youth, to contribute towards rural development.
    4. It helps NGOs and Govt Welfare departments, implement rural development schemes, much more efficiently and sustainably, through the local human resource base.
    5. It encourages rural children to continue education in search of excellence, through a familiar environment, and help raise the average education levels in rural areas.
    6. It gives choices in education to rural children, and a wider scope of work and employment locally.
    7. It will create a backbone of skilled human resource, for new development programmes.
    8. It will give a big boost, pace and a facelift to Rural Development.
    9. It will help arrest migration.

The GRAMODAYA model received the ‘EDUCATION INNOVATION AWARD’ in 2013, from “Education Innovation Fund for India”, instituted by Hewlett Packard and Sri Aurobindo Society.

Developed by Organisation for Awareness of Integrated Social Security (OASiS) – A Social Innovations Laboratory, GRAMODAYA was Piloted successfully with SRREOSHI in 2 forest villages in Bankura District, West Bengal.

Corporate Houses, Funding organizations, Philanthropic groups and Large NGOs can support GRAMODAYA replication in different states. OASiS has all the requisite registrations :12A, 80G and FCRA, for the same.

Local NGOs interested in piloting this model in their areas, with their own funding support, are welcome.

Together, let us create a Human Resource backbone of Rural Development professionals, in Rural India, so that Rural development happens effectively, efficiently and sustainably and India reaches the SDG goals soon.