The right to education is a right to life! We believe strongly in this maxim and prioritise basic education in the fight against poverty among disadvantaged children. But the issue of girls' education, which Ecoles de la Terre has been working towards since its inception, is one that is rarely mentioned. Women make up the vast majority of the hundreds of millions of illiterate people in the world today. Girls are far less likely to go to school and when they do, they tend to attend poorer quality schools for shorter periods of time.
Although widespread primary education is one of the main concerns of the Indian government, it is still proving a major challenge to achieve this goal, particularly in rural areas and the poorest neighbourhoods of major cities.
The children we target live in poverty and have no opportunity to study other than the solutions we seek to offer them. This is either because they live in slums and their parents are unable to enrol them in school, or they live in very isolated rural areas without schools. Educational requirements and school networks differ between urban and rural areas, which is why our programmes and initiatives may vary depending on the region.
This target group is children living in slums aged from three to 10 years. The programmes include kindergarten classes and the first years of compulsory schooling, and cover the foundations of the primary school curriculum.
We work in urban and semi-urban areas where there is a wide network of schools, and children with a normal standard of living could ordinarily attend a school close to their homes.
Our aim is to prepare poor children for entry into the school system as quickly as possible; in other words, a state or private school that teaches the official curriculum. Access is based on an entrance test that assesses the child's level of knowledge. However, those who cannot be enrolled in an official school for whatever reason will be given the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge, including reading and writing in their native language, arithmetic and English.
This target group is rural children aged three to 15 years. School curriculums include nursery and kindergarten classes, compulsory primary school classes (levels 1 to 8) and, insofar as possible, secondary classes (levels 9 and 10). Government permission is required for the introduction of new classes from level 5. All subjects on the official curriculum, including English, are taught.
The schools are located in isolated rural areas where educational infrastructure is scarce or non-existent, and children do not have a school that offers the official curriculum situated close enough to their homes. The aim is to enable as many pupils as possible to follow the compulsory school curriculum and continue to study at a recognised secondary school.
The parents of these pupils are mostly illiterate. It is not possible for them to enrol their children in school and supervise their academic progress or advise and support them in their efforts. Without this vital assistance, disadvantaged children struggle to integrate into the school system. To fill this gap, we have set up educational advice, guidance and academic support platforms.
Pupils who are enrolled to continue their studies in normal primary schools benefit freely from our support and advice. The same is true for pupils who are left to their own devices within the secondary system and find it difficult to follow the curriculum due to a lack of support from their families or communities.
We offer career guidance services and assistance with securing school places and enrolment procedures. From an educational perspective, we organise extra tuition, extra-curricular activities and academic support. All subjects in the official primary and secondary curriculum are taught via these platforms
Children in urban and semi-urban areas, mainly slums and poor urban neighbourhoods, are the primary beneficiaries of this programme. However, some rural schools also establish this type of support platform.
The aim is to support disadvantaged children at the beginning of their studies. We seek to educate their parents – who are mostly illiterate – and represent them when it comes to certain administrative procedures. Our learning support and remedial courses are designed to ensure that children are properly enrolled in school, and to support them throughout their education.
In order to diversify our efforts and offer career guidance services, we have been focusing on apprenticeship training since the early 2000s. Combined with primary and secondary education, these courses serve as a reminder of the importance of the link between academic support, and encourage professional development and an ability to take the initiative.
This target group is teenagers aged approximately 15 and upwards, who are unable to continue their education. After refreshing their basic education skills, they receive theoretical training in a trade followed by practical training in a workshop setting. Two pathways have gradually been established, paving the way for the first apprenticeship centres to train candidates in specific trades.
The first pathway is geared towards craftmaking. Various activities provide training in the field of textiles (weaving, sewing, embroidery, tailoring, batik, etc.). Other courses include woodwork and metalwork (toys, household furniture, decorative items, jewellery, statuettes, etc.) and leatherwork (shoes, bags, pouches, belts, etc.).
The second pathway trains future apprentices for the office automation and IT sector by providing a foundation for them to learn a trade in IT or telecommunications. It also aims to enable them to acquire the skills required to obtain a job in the field of office automation or administration.
However, a third pathway has also emerged. Ecoles de la Terre has recently partnered with a training programme set up by the federal government in Delhi called the 'Skilling Program in India'. The Bihar branch of Ecoles de la Terre supports this programme, which facilitates apprenticeships and placements in companies in the computer and textile manufacturing sectors.
The apprenticeship centres are located in semi-urban and rural areas. The aim of this training structure is to enable young women and men to refresh skills in basic education first and foremost in order to gain access to better prospects through vocational training. Obtaining jobs in companies or setting up micro-enterprises is the ultimate goal