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Thursday , June 7 , 2012
 
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In capital, a summer of fun and learning

A month ago, words such as bat or bag would not have made much sense for eight-year-old Saraswati Kumari, a third grader in a state-run primary school in Ratu block.

Thanks to a one-of-its-kind summer camp, Saraswati has now not only improved her vocabulary and arithmetic skills, but is also able to recognise numbers and construct simple sentences.

Like Saraswati, over 8,500 children from the three districts of Ranchi, Deogarh and Giridih are responding to learning sessions being hosted by social organisation Pratham through the unique summer camps.

One such month-long camp kicked off on May 15 in Ranchi’s Ratu block with the aim of enhancing the learning abilities of rural children. The organisation’s prime focus was to stem dropout rates by targeting students from Class III-V.

Before starting the camp, the volunteers identified children who could at least recognise words and numbers. After screening 15,000 students, they shortlisted 8,500, spread over three districts.

The volunteers began by conducting two-hour study sessions for students from 50 villages in every block, while in the evening they got the children to create graffiti with messages like “Hamara gaon hamara vidyalaya”, “Mata pita kare na bhul bache ko behje school”.

Speaking about the result of these sessions, volunteers said children have improved both their learning and arithmetic skills from 10 to 25 per cent.

State head of Pratham Kumar Katyayani said they undertook the venture as the level of learning was abysmally low in rural schools.

“By the time the children get promoted to the secondary level, their academic performance deteriorates, affecting the overall education system. According to the Annual Status of Education Report published last year, nearly 60 per cent of students of Classes III-V in Jharkhand are unable to read and write, which is a matter of concern,” said Katyayani.

Praising fourth grader Puja Kumari who can now do simple additions and subtractions, Ratu block co-ordinator Ram Prasad Das said: “We are reaching out to 3,500 students in Ranchi district through this camp. Every five out of 15 students who are attending this camp can recognise words and are also able to solve simple mathematical problems already.”

However, it is not all work and no play for the children at the camp. Using materials such as number cards and fun cards and asking the children to come up and scribble on a black board, the volunteers have made the sessions interesting for the kids as well.

Once the camp gets over on June 16, Pratham will select children to be volunteers in forthcoming ventures. The selected children will undergo training on teaching and learning methods for four days. “They will, in turn, teach others,” added the block co-ordinator.