It is not often that I write something on this list about a personal experience. But I am so enthusiastic about an MLE programme I visited last week as an external evaluator, that I would like to share about it.
Two of my assumptions were challenged. 1. NGOs do adult education; governments do primary education. 2. NGOs and government schools are in competition with each other. Doubly wrong! Here was an NGO successfully strengthening the primary schools in the villages by running MLE classes for children. The NGO, Asha Kiran Society, Lamptaput, Orissa, is running MLE classes in 15 villages. I visited 4 villages, observed classes and talked extensively with the village leaders.
Sitting under a tree talking with the villagers, I asked them if the teachers of the MLE programme do actually show up. A whole choir of voices responded with an “Of course”. They explained that the MLE teachers even ask permission from their Village Education Committee if they need to be absent for a day. Otherwise, they are there every day. Several wanted to speak up when I asked if they liked the programme: “Our children learn our own language, our own customs and stories”. “Our children are eager to attend school and take a bath and wash their hands on their own initiative”, etc. The class observations confirmed this. I observed maths games, big book reading, creative writing, singing, dancing, etc. The children were present and engaged. The drop-out rates, even after three years,were low.
There were challenges, too. In one village it was very hard to find an educated person to do the teaching. The new teacher, whose formal education stopped after 9th, had difficulty himself in reading the big book. In some places the villagers have a hard time to provide a meeting place. We sometimes felt that the independent reading could be better.
Several village education committees shared with me that before the NGO MLE programme started the government school teachers would hardly ever show up and, if they were there, would not do much teaching. But, when the MLE classes started running before or after school hours, the MLE programme started to positively influence the government school. Parents and children put more pressure on the teachers to come and teach. Teachers started to note that the children became more “teachable”.