Evolution, Growth and Scale of GyanSetu

Set up in the 2011 with 2 centers, the program was formalized a year later, when the program had grown to 6 centers. One of the original goals was to understand how to optimise a video based training system. Field surveys were undertaken to find places where there were several children out of school. A local teacher was sourced; a learning space identified and equipped. The teachers were trained by SHEF staff, and then went to their neighbourhood and recruited children. Through community dialogue, an ideal operational time was identified for the center to run. The agreed time slot was for 2 hours which would be convenient for parents to ensure their children attended classes daily. The goal here, was to prepare the children sufficiently academically so that they were self-motivated to enrol in a local public school.

Due to our prior exposure to the extreme challenges faced in marginalized communities (from our work with Prerna Girls School), a community based holistic approach was used. Therefore, the GyanSetu teachers were trained in community mobilization and supported by Suraksha (a counselling service provider that works in communities in a targeted manner.

Teacher training was conducted by SHEF’s pedagogy head. She not only trained them in the SHEF pedagogy, she also mentored them caringly on site. Under her guidance, we collaborated with government and child protection services working in the local area to garner support for the GyanSetu program goals.

Currently, SHEF runs 18 centres, 16 are within a distance of 40 kms. from the SHEF head-office in Lucknow and 2 centres are in the Barabanki district. We only hire local people who have some recognition and influence in the community. We first survey the area and find likely candidates who are educated and interested in teaching. Post recruitment the teachers are trained intensively for 7 days at SHEF before they are deployed at the center, after which they attend monthly training and feedback sessions.

These centers cater to between 500 to 600 children at any point in time. GyanSetu classes are held 6 days a week for two hours. Temporary huts and other such community spaces are used to run the classes. GyanSetu teachers are trained in a child responsive, interactive, activity and arts based curriculum and pedagogy contextualised in the child’s life.

Mothers’ meetings are held every week at every center. During these meetings, the GyanSetu teacher, accompanied by counselors from Suraksha, talk to the mothers regarding on a range of issues. When a case of domestic violence, dowry, substance abuse, etc is reported, counsellors intervene, and if need be the local police is also called in. Mothers are sensitised about the remedies and measures that can be taken when faced with violence and abuse. The focus of the mothers’ meetings is on empowering the women and making them aware of their rights.

The roots of GyanSetu have deepened within community as there has been a clear change in the way parents view and value education. This is evidenced by the high transition rates that have been achieved. Positive changes have been made in the children’s environments by our ability to identify and respond to cases of violence, and abuse (among others).

Many of the students who transition formal school, continue to attend the centers because they find the activities attractive and because they feel they learn better here. We have corroborated this by tracking learning outcomes in schools and find the performance of the GyanSetu students has improved.

Ketaki, grandmother of one of our children told us - "No school here has a teacher who puts as much effort or takes as much interest in teaching as Poonam [GyanSetu Shankarpur teacher] does. No child here gets annoyed or agitated. They come quickly here and are reluctant to go to any other school. To come here, they get ready themselves and leave for classes on their own."