UMBVS Asha For Education (AFE) Project
Mohangarh Area, Rajasthan
Location: Mohangarh area about 2 hours north of Jaisalmer. Main office in Phalodi, Jodhpur District, Rajasthan. Teacher training center at Pokharan, Rajasthan.
Status: Funded on September 2000 through Work An Hour. This is the first site visit after funding was sanctioned.
Organization: UMBVS (Urmul Marusthali Bunkar Vikas Samiti)
Date of Visit: December 10th 2001
Mohangarg village phone number: 02997-28515 (Bima Ram Sarpanchís house). Ask for Ayub Khan or Magga Ram.
How to get there: The schools are located in the sparsely populated desert area surrounding Mohangarh village about 2 hours north of Jaisalmer. Their main office is located in the town of Phalodi, which is on the way between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. They also have rented a small room as an office in Mohangarh village itself. There is also an office in Pokharan and all teachers training takes place there.
Phalodi -† There are two ways to get to Phalodi. A local train runs from Jodhpur to Phalodi at 8:30 AM and takes about 4 hours. Alternatively, there is a bus service that takes a bit longer. Once reaching Phalodi, just ask for UMBVS or URMUL. Any rickshaw driver should know about it. Cost from train station to UMBVS office should be about 15 rupees.
From Jodhpur: Take train to Jaisalmer and then take a bus to Mohangarg. Alternatively, take a bus to Thiat Phata which is Ĺ hour before Jaisalmer and then take another bus to Mohangarg from there.
From Phalodi: Take bus to either Thiat Phata or Jaisalmer. Take bus from either of those two locations to Mohangarg.
Upon reaching Mohangarg bus station, itís a short walk to the office there. If the goal is to go directly to the schools, it is best to rent a jeep and ask to go to the URMUL/UMBVS schools. There are some schools near Doodi Phata and Soother Vala Mandi. Other locations still need to be determined.
I took the train to Jodhpur and reached there around 6 in the morning. I decided to then head for Phalodi, which was another 4-hour train ride away. Took the 0830 local train, and got to the Phalodi office at about 1:00 PM.
There I met with the accounting head for UMBVS, Om Prakash Sahu. We discussed the finances of the project. They seem to have a very organized accounting system with a computer program to track expenses. In addition, they had receipts for all expenses. The office in Phalodi is a large house including living quarters for workers. It is the main office for UMBVS.
After meeting with the accounts person in Phalodi, I caught a bus to Jaisalmer. I reached on Saturday night. I decided to spend the Sunday in Jaisalmer and then head to Mohangarg on Monday morning. The bus to Mohangarg left from the main bus station at around 8:30 AM and I reached Mohangarg at around 10:30 AM. As told by Om Prakash Sahu, I asked for the Sarpanch of the village, Bima Ram at Mewgal basti. I walked to the house, which was about a 10-minute walk from the bus station. Bima Ramís house was the biggest and best built in the area. When I reached there I talked to Bima Ramís brother, Kastura Ram. Kastura Ram told me that Bima Ram had just left with Madan Lal Sharma and Magga Ram to visit some schools. I later found out that they had gone to take some pictures for the status report. I was told that they would return around 3PM. I was told there was an office that was being rented by URMUL. I asked to see the office, and was taken there. The office was a room in the house of Puna Ram, also the brother of Bima Ram. The room was locked and I was told that they key was with Madan Lal Sharma. I asked him how much the rent was for the room and was told it was 450 rupees a month.
I then decided not to wait for the people to return. I talked to Kastura Ram and he said that there were buses to the area where the schools were located as well as jeeps that I could rent to get to the schools. He mentioned two areas, Doodi Phaata, 40 KM from Mewgal Basti and the other called Soother Vala Mandi 25KM from the Basti. I walked back to the bus stand and asked when the next bus to that area was leaving, and I was told it was at around 2:30PM.
I decided that if I waited for Madan Lal Sharma then it would be too late for me to go and see the schools. The other option was renting a Jeep and I decided to go for it. Renting the jeep was the better option. The schools are far away and also away from the main roads where the bus would have dropped me off. The Jeep driver was familiar with the area and was able to help find the schools. . If I had taken the bus, I would not have found the schools.
When I returned from the schools, I found Madan Lal Sharma waiting for me. We talked for about an hour, and then I took the bus back to Jaisalmer. From there at night I took the train to Jodhpur.
The schools are spread out over a large area around Mohangarh. I was able to visit 3 schools and also meet the teachers of two other schools. The timings are set for all the schools to be from 10:30 AM to 4: 30 PM. The first two schools are close to a place called Doodi Phaata, and the third school is close to a place called Soother Vala Mandi. Both these places are basically intersections.
Teacher: Padma Ramji
The first school has approximately 25-30 families in the surrounding area. The number of children attending this school is 32, with 20 of them being boys. All were enrolled in 1st standard. The area that this school covers is approximately 2KM in each direction. The surrounding community consists primarily of† farmers. At the time of enrollment, the teachers go to the parents and help them fill out a form. The father then signs the form. The teachers meet with the parents once a month in a teacher/parent meeting. The parents participate through helping to build the structure of the schools as well as visiting the schools sometimes to monitor their children. If parents do not come to the meeting or if a child is absent for some time, then the teacher goes to the parents and talks to them.
There is a government school about 3 KM from School 1. Itís called the Rajiv Gandhi Government School. I went to see that school, and it was in a bad condition. The teacher was away and there were about 4 children inside doing something. Padma Ram informed me that the teacher was on holiday.
Padma Ram had been associated with UMBVS for the past 10 years. He was a weaver trained by them, and now had become a teacher.
He also mentioned that initially there were two teachers at this school, but one left to take care of family responsibilities. So he was running the school on his own.
Teachers: Babu Lalji, and Haripalji
The second school is close to the first. It took the jeep about 20 minutes to get there from the first school. This school is bigger than the first, and has about 50 enrolled students in the 1st class. Additionally there are 8 children in 2nd class and 3 children in 3rd class. The 2nd and 3rd class students are taught in a separate room.
The main structure is built of mud and stone and is fairly large. The roof is made of straw. There is a second structure next to the main room, which is made of bricks but does not have a roof.
Location: Soother Vala Mandi
Teacher: Poonam Chand Khichar
This school is located near the Soother Vala Mandi, an intersection with a few shops and a place to buy petrol. The students come from about 50 families living in a 2KM area around the school. The teacher has been educated up to 9th class and was a farmer before joining URMUL.
There are about 34 enrolled students with an average attendance of 27. The day I visited there were about 20 students.
The room is being donated for free by a Rajinder Sau who is with the Rajasthan state government. The villagers are planning to build a school, but due to financial difficulties they have postponed this to sometime in 2002.
I asked the students to read what they were currently learning, and they were able to read from their textbook. I also asked them if they could count, and one boy was able to count with no problem. The boy could count up to 60.
The equipment that I saw was standard for all the schools. The items I could see included:
2 Blackboards, Books and notebooks, chair, carpet, closet, large storage box, sports equipment such as a football, school bags for all the students, posters (India and Rajasthan maps, Numbers, Hindi letters, political map), clock, a metal bucket for drinking water.
Teachers, support staff
UMBVS has a position of education coordinator, which is occupied by Madan Lal Sharma. The education coordinator manages all of the education related projects that UMBVS is involved in, including the AFE project. In addition there are two coordinators, Ayub Khan and Magga Ram. There are 15 teachers, all men, who teach in the 10 schools.†
Magga Ram and Ayub Khan visit each school about 3-4 times a month. They record each visit in a register, where they sign their names. Their role seems to be to monitor the teacherís progress as well as the studentsí progress. In addition, they help individual teachers with any difficulties they are having with managing the classes, and take request for more supplies that may be needed.†
The teachers seem well trained. They were following the training given to them and kept daily track of what was being taught. In addition there was a study plan of what needed to be taught on which day, if they had been successful in teaching it, and the corresponding chapters in the books. An attendance register kept track of each studentís attendance record.
All the teachers and support staff have a 2-day meeting every month, where they discuss any problems the teachers are having, including to see how far each teacher has progressed in teaching the syllabus.
The books used were Rajasthan State Education Board books.
The teachers came together and developed exams for the different classes together.
The training provided to the teacher seems to be comprehensive. Talking to Padma Ram, he mentioned that the teachers were taught how to best teach children, teaching about life, such as soul, body, sukh/dukh, and also how to manage the classroom with attendance, and curriculum. In addition they keep statistics such as average attendance, of students over periods of time.
The teachers were weavers or farmers before they were trained, and they seemed dedicated and knowledgeable about what they were doing.
The schools have been running for a short period of time, and the children are in the first to third classes. The plan for the future as children learn and pass the exams is to continue to train the teachers to teach the corresponding higher class.
The children are generally excited about being in school and learning.
The attendance average for school 1 was 14/20 boys and 9/12 girls.
The local community consists primarily of farmers that have been granted land by the government. They are primarily SC/ST status.
There seems to be support from the parents. There is a parents committee consisting of 11 people including 3 women. This committee meets regularly to discuss problems and workings of the school. There was a government school in the local area, but the teacher was on holiday and the children were not coming. According to the teachers, the parents preferred to send their children to URMUL schools.
The teacher is paid Rs. 1200 a month.
Ayub Khan is paid Rs. 4200 a month.
Maga Ram is paid Rs. 2400 a month.
There is also a contribution of 12% towards a Provident Fund.
The salary for Madan Lal Sharmaji is not paid by the Asha funding. Asha pays only his expenses.
The project rents a room for Rs. 450 a month for an office in Mohangarg.
Om Prakash Sahu, the accountant mentioned that next auditing to be done in December.
There are no immediate issues that need to be resolved. Some questions need to be addressed, as listed below: