Primary School Support
The concept of Balwadi or pre-school program for children between the ages of 2 to 5 years was initiated by Chirag in 1991. We found that many schools had inadequate number of teachers and as a result, most of them focused on the older children. younger children were overlooked as hence they had little opportunity to learn the fundamental building blocks of primary education and were thus not adequately prepared when they moved to higher classes. At the Balwadis, a Chirag trained Balshikshak engages with the younger children and teaches them the fundamentals so that they are prepared for the higher classes. The government teachers are now able to focus their time on the older children. The Bakshikshaks are trained in innovative teaching methods using local, low cost materials and interact frequently with the parents for their direct involvement and feedback.
To improve quality of education especially in the 1st and 2nd grade, Chirag liaisoned with the government education department to create curriculums and text books with more local content and connect. Subjects like environment, local wildlife, health and sanitation were introduced. Small projects on wildlife and conservation was also undertaken to increase the interest of the children in these areas. This was done by involving the youth who were trained and given a honorary role as teachers or Bal Shikshaks for Class 1 and 2.
The School Library Program was started in each school to increase reading habit of the children and keeping them qualitatively engaged. These libraries are now maintained by the children themselves. On an average, each school now has around 700 books. Balya Manch or Group Readings by students are held once a week or as per their demand.
The Village Education Committee or Gram Shikshak Samiti was formed to keep the parents involved and support their children’s education by donating money every month. Health Checkups and summer camps are also held each year to promote all-round development of the child.
Around 1776 boys and girls from 49 government schools in Bageshwar, Ramgarh, Dhari and Bhimtal are directly supported by Chirag.