(By Sagar)

Hello all,

  My opinions on some of the questions raised:

 

1) "One family seems to supervise the entire operation? Renting the room instead of getting it for free."

The situation is as follows: The operation is run by URMUL and the individual in charge is Madan Lal Sharma who is the education coordinator for URMUL. I met him at the village and he was very much involved with the running of the schools. The family you refer to is the family of the Sarpanch, who has at least 3 brothers. Of this family 2 of the brothers are involved. One brother is the junior supervisor. The second brother is renting a room in the village to the project.The primary supervisor/ coordinator is Ayub Khan, who is not related to the family.

 

Although it is possible that the family or the village residents could give a room for free, the situation on the ground is that the primary beneficiaries of these schools are the farmers and their children who live on

the outside of the villages in the desert they are trying to farm. The were landless and are mostly of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe classification. They are not the people of Mohangarg, and therefore I doubt have the high level of community support from the village. They do have the support from their own community of farmers, who are very interested in their children's education and are involved in the running of the schools, and from URMUL.

 

Therefore, for URMUL to do it's work, maybe, and we can confirm this, they need the Sarpanch's help and assistance. But the fact remains that the family is not running the show. URMUL is. With Madan Lal Sharma, and Ayub Khan as the main people. On the side, URMUL is getting the use of at least one classroom (that I visited) from the government for free.

 

2)"The results of initial funding".

The measurable results are as follows:

a) 10 schools set up. The setting up of 10 schools includes, building the schools with the help of the parents/ community. Setting up the parent committee and getting them to meet regularly. Going to the parents living in their houses in the desert and encouraging them and educating them on the need to send their children to school. Actual teaching, where class is held from 10:30 to 4:30 every day, and the children attend and are learning. The teachers meet together and create tests for all students to monitor progress

 

b) 15 Teachers trained. Training includes: how to manage the classroom, which means: tracking attendance of each student, steps to take to if student is not visiting, creating lesson plans, following lesson plans, monitoring daily progress, meeting with parents, documenting progress, testing students. I believe the teachers are capable and educated enough to teach the children in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. Additionally, with the excellent education structure (progress monitoring, lesson plans, etc) that has been created by URMUL, the job of teaching is less complicated and more thorough.

 

c) additional infrastructure. Supplies for 10 schools and their students. Include books, bags, mats, blackboards, charts, cupboard for storage, sports equipment.

 

d) Monitoring system for each school. Ayub Khan and Magga Ram spend their time monitoring the progress of each school, including school visits. They hold meetings for all the teacher to address concerns and resolve issues. Teachers have this channel to resolve problems they cannot themselves.

 

3) "Numbers seem to be on the higher side"

This may be the case and needs to be looked into. Someone had mentioned food and training costs are high. They may be. We need to look into whether they have a cook or are they catering? What is the cost of a meal in Pokharan? For example, at the initial teachers training (15 teachers) last year, the cost for food for 30 days was Rs. 24000. If we break that up, it comes to Rs. 1600 per teacher per month, or Rs. 53.30 per day. I think that is a bit high but by about 5+ rupees a day. In other words I'm assuming a meal costs Rs. 15, and so I would be more comfortable with Rs. 45 per day. But to deal with these numbers, we need to know what URMUL assumptions are.

 

I believe that we can effectively work with URMUL on the financial side. I don't believe that URMUL is out to cheat us. But we have to challenge them on the numbers.

 

4)"Long term funding":

 I think it is clear that WAH cannot support this project long term. As stated in earlier emails, URMUL needs to find long term sustained funding for this work. I will be working with them to make sure this happens.

 

5) "Long term planning":

As mentioned in the earlier email, the original plan was to convert these schools

to government schools. Newer information tells us that for that to happen the teachers need to be B Ed. educated or a 2 year teacher training course. So we have a problem with the original plan. The possible solutions that I can think of are a) either URMUL hires teachers with the relevant qualifications or b) we train the current teachers or c) wait for the government to set up schools and then transfer the children to them and shut down the Asha schools.

 

Solution a: Hiring teachers with B Ed. or 2 year qualification from outside, and then asking them to work in these schools in the middle of the desert is unrealistic and undesirable. Unrealistic because people generally don't prefer to work in the middle of the desert. Undesirable because they will not be locals, and we significantly reduce the community relationships and involvement that we have now, with the teachers being from the local area.

 

Solution b:

This is a possibility, but we need to work out funding, feasibility, timeframe issues. This also depends on when the govt. is planning to get involved. My guess will be not soon. So we have some time to implement training for the teachers. We could have a staggered approach, where a few teacher go for training every year, or maybe they can do it part time. Solution c: Sounds like a good option. But will the govt. start any schools in this area? and when? There are other solutions that can be thought of and implemented. The next step for me, is to contact URMUL and ask them for a detailed plan on what they think the long term situation should be and what should be done about it.

 

In Summary, I think URMUL and the schools are doing a very good job at educating the children, which is the most important thing. Issues that are mentioned above exist, as issues do in every project, I'm sure. Some issues are there due to changes in the government policy, some are there because of lack of sustained

communication in the past. But the fact remains that the work being done is valuable and necessary in the area. We have had the fortune to get lots of information from URMUL (lately, when they were asked) and have had 2 informative site visits. This information and the visits show that the work has produced amazing results, in my opinion, and overall the project is worth funding by WAH at this time.