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Pratham's Vocational training centre at Mahule village in Odisha's Sonepur district offers training and placement to youths in the automotive sector. It is the only automotive centre in the region, and its infrastructure is provided by the Odisha Skill Development Authority, and the implementation is done by Pratham. The youths that enrol in this centre are from the economically disadvantaged background from Sonepur district, as well as neighbouring Boudh district. They generally belong to families who are involved in small-scale farming or daily-wage work. 



Trilochan Khandagiri joined this course because he wanted a job. He hails from Lupursingha village, district Sonepur. His family owns a small piece of land, where they grow rice. He studied till 9th grade, and later opted to help his family on the farm and also look for a job. "As a child, it was fascinating to see the work of a mechanic. It was my motivation", he says. So when Trilochan found out that there is a centre that trains you in a course, that was his liking, he wasted no time in thinking! He enrolled himself at the centre and liked all aspects of the course. 

"In farming, there is a lot of hard work, but the returns are less. But the same won't be the case in a garage. My family consists of my parents and an elder brother. If I have to take care of them, I have to earn a higher income", says Trilochan. "Moreover, people approach a person if he has skills."

The teaching at the centre as impressed Trilochan. He is happy about the personal attention, and also the patience of the instructors who answer all his questions, no matter how many times he asks them! He also likes the importance of maintaining a time-table, a concept which is very new to him! But his most favourite experience at the centre was learning English! "The centre has taught us how to operate a computer and how to communicate in English. I feel it is important because both things are needed in today's world", he says. 

Before starting a garage, Trilochan wants work but does not want to go outside Odisha. He is sure that his garage will flourish as there are few garages around, and with proper skills, he can solve the problem!  With his first salary, he wants to help his parents and home and buy a bike for himself. We wish Trilochan all the best! 
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Sabyasachi Biswal hails from Dapala village in Odisha's Boudh district. His family practices farming at a very small scale, and they have involved themselves in rice cultivation. Sabyasachi always wanted to enter into a different occupation apart from farming. "I started a small shop in my village. But I did not get any returns. I had to close the shop", he says. However, his didi, a teacher from his classes informed him about Pratham Institute's vocational training centre in Mahule village, district Sonepur. This centre imparts training in the automotive vertical. "I was looking for a job, and it did not matter which course I was joining", he says.



"I was blank when I came here. In fact, I did not know anything about vehicles", he says. Sabyasachi admits that he did not have any idea about the course, and getting a job was his first priority. He thanks all his friends at the centre who helped him adjust and made him aware of the course. Apart from his friends, he also says thanks to his teachers for the disciplined nature of the course. "I like the silence and discipline here. I am experiencing it for the first time, and this is a new experience for me."

As we move ahead in the conversation, Sabyasachi mentions that apart from the practical training sessions, he also appreciates the theory which is taught at the centre. "The practical training is good, and it is required. But I love the way the conduct lectures. I love the 5 'S' of a personality which they taught us here - sort, set in order, shine, standardise and sustain", he says with a smile. As he narrates these five qualities, the teachers at the centre and his friends look at him with pride and happiness.

As we leave, we ask Sabyasachi what are his plans after he completes this course. He states that applying for a job would be his immediate priority, but not in Odisha. "I want to work in Rajasthan, as I have seen the culture of the state on television. And then when I get my first salary, I have to buy a few things. First of all, I will distribute sweets to everyone at the centre, and then buy a saree for my mother and a dhoti for my father. I also have a younger brother, and I will buy him anything that he asks for", he says. 

Sabyasachi wants to work in Rajasthan for a few years and then come back to Odisha and work in the automotive sector in his village. He will continue with farming, but will also earn an extra income from this job. We wish him all the best!
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Hiren hails from Jharkheda village, in Madhya Pradesh's Sehore district. He has completed education till 10th grade through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) with the support of Pratham's program for children with disabilities. We met him in Bhopal in 2017 when NIOS had organised a drawing competition, and Hiren was one of the participants.

Hiren


Hiren acquired polio when he was very young, and his future became a matter of concern for his family members. His parents work as daily wage labourers, and hence, the family has always faced the problem of earning a minimum income. Hiren tried to help them in his own capacity but nurtured a dream since a very young age. He wanted to become a manager. The idea of an office, a table and a chair always excited him. That was his idea of a manager.

Hiren attended the government school in his village and studied till 9th grade. However, in a tragic turn of events, his elder brother passed away, and Hiren had to bear the responsibility of the family. Unable to cope up with this pressure, Hiren failed in class, and lost confidence in further pursuing education. He remained out of school for the next five years until Pratham's team members approached him and his family and updated them about the program. He was assigned a home tutor facility, and Deshraj Ahirwar was appointed as his tutor. 

Deshraj Ahirwar


The partnership of Hiren and Deshraj was very productive and helpful for the former. Hiren not only enjoyed learning but also got back to drawing and painting, a hobby he had developed since childhood. Deshraj and the entire team of Pratham encouraged Hiren to draw and paint, and hence he could participate in the competition at Bhopal. His parents were also happy about the home tutor facility, as they believe that education will transform Hiren's life and eventually, the family's lifestyle.
As we appreciated Hiren's painting and asked him about his plans ahead, he reiterated his dream of becoming a manager. He passed the 10th-grade examination in 2018, and we are sure he will accomplish his goal one day. 
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Sujata Padhi and Sarojini Mohanto are best friends and like to do things together. They travel to school together, study and play together, and now like to learn in a group. "There are many ways one can learn in a group, and it is not restricted to one group", says Sujata. "It allows us to explore more", adds Sarojini.



We are at Karadiha village in Karanjia block in Odisha's Mayurbhanj district. The two languages spoken in this village are Santhali and Olchi, and as the district has a tribal population, it is a challenge for them to learn in Odiya. However, thanks to the library program in the village and the learning camp in school, children in this village have found a new love for learning. Sujata says the group has also allowed them to develop leadership skills, and learning in groups is something that they have newly discovered, but now everyone is becoming used to it.

"The group allows us to explore each other. If one of us does not know anything, the others help us, and we help them if we know anything", says Sarojini. Both Sujata and Sarojini admit that they have become more interactive, and this is one change they observe in themselves. Sarojini further states that their mothers are a witness to it, and they also feel that their daughters have become more expressive and share a lot of things at home.

Sarojini, the more talkative of the two, smiles when we ask which are their favourite activities. "We like the games and activities, and also puzzles and Antakshari in English. We also enjoy the project work in science", she says. She further admits that language is not a 'problem' for them anymore. However, the difficulties in Math persist, and they are ready to work hard and learn more.

The newfound enthusiasm and interactive behaviour have translated into Sujata and Sarojini's interaction with their school teachers. The latter admit that children have become interactive and participate in the class with enthusiasm.
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"I dropped out of school as the high school was far, and I could not afford a daily trip. While there was a private school nearby, the fees were very high."



Kajal Upadhyay lives in Sutar khedi village, located in the Mhow block of Madhya Pradesh's Indore district. Her primary schooling took place at the government school in her village, and for the reasons mentioned above, she discontinued her studies. Her family members - both mother and father - work as labourers and their income is sufficient to meet only the basic needs of the family. Kajal accepted this fact and discontinued her studies. But deep down in her mind, there was a desire to complete her studies. "I was attracted to the police force, but as I dropped out of school, my confidence levels dipped. It was as if there was no opportunity to grow", she says.

Hence, when she met a representative from Pratham who informed her about the Second Chance program, there was first a moment of disbelief for her. Is there such an opportunity? And will I be able to complete my education till 10th grade? These were the initial thoughts in Kajal's mind when she first heard about the program. But she thanks the Pratham team for an effective counselling which ultimately convinced her, and she joined the program.

"The village where I stay is conservative. However, my parents supported me in this decision", she says. Kajal soon adapted to the program, and in a few weeks, she became a part of it. "In my school, the teachers used to teach very little, and a large part was given as homework. Most of us did not understand anything, and we lagged behind. However, here we study in groups, and it was the most helpful thing. The teachers at the centre taught well, answered all our questions and hence we did not face any difficulty in our homework", she says.

With the help of her teachers, her fellow classmates and more importantly, with all her efforts, Kajal passed the 10th-grade examination in 2015, after a gap of two years. "My confidence is back", she says. She sees a complete transformation in herself as now she feels there are opportunities ahead. "My parents also now know that there are multiple options ahead, and I have a qualification to pursue any of them. But now I am confident that I can join the police force or the army. It is wonderful that passing an examination could do so much to me."

Kajal has now learned to browse the internet, and she now uses it to gather information about the entrance examinations required for joining the police force. Her next academic target is 12th grade, and that also seems easily achievable. "I run every morning, follow it with physical exercises and then study for my 12th grade. I am confident that both the outcomes, passing 12th grade and joining the army or the police force, are easily achievable. And I thank the 10th-grade milestone for the change and confidence in me", she says with a smile. 
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"My mother-in-law was the biggest support, and I cannot thank her enough." Nainaben begins narrating her story. As she describes it further, we realise how crucial was her mother-in-law's support in making her what she is today. Nainaben passed her 10th-grade examination in 2017, and she had dropped out of school way back in 2004. But when she decided to enrol in Pratham's Second Chance program, she had to face two major hurdles - her husband and her father-in-law.



But Naina's mother-in-law wanted her to study again, and she had an innovative idea in mind to convince the two of them. "She told my father-in-law that my husband wanted me to study ahead. And she said to my husband that my father-in-law felt that I should complete my studies till 10th-grade. She ensured that they did not change their mind till I wrote my exams", she chuckles. But things were not easy for Naina. She had to adjust her schedule at home and balance it with her studies.

"I changed my schedule completely. I became an early riser and began my day revising what was taught the previous day. It was followed by household chores. But my mother-in-law ensured that I never missed my class", says Naina. However, as studies became intense, and the date of examination appeared closer, her participation at home became lesser. It led to frustration, as both, her husband and her father-in-law felt that Naina was not paying enough attention at home. But again, her mother-in-law acted like a glue and held the family together. She also mentions the 'Life Skills' taught in class and credits the subject for helping her plan her schedule.

Naina felt relieved when she passed the 10th-grade examination. Her parents were agriculture labourers, and they insisted that she should look after her younger siblings, and made her drop out of school. But she got a 'Second Chance' in life twelve years later, and she thanks Pratham and her mother-in-law for the same. With renewed aspirations, she wants to study ahead and help her children in their studies. "I can now operate a computer and a smartphone. It is my biggest gain", she says with a smile.

What next for Nainaben, we ask, and she smiles widely in response. "My husband is a policeman. He once told me that I would never complete my 10th-grade. I proved him wrong. Now, I want to study ahead, join the police force and walk a step ahead", she says. We wish Nainaben all the best in her future endeavours.   
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"I talk to other women in the village, and I want to see this grow as a movement." Rekha expresses her optimism during our meeting at her house. We are at Hyakanuru village in Karnataka's Mysore district. It lies in the T. Narasipura block, where people either cultivate rice or travel to Mysore for work. Rekha's family is involved in the former. While she is a housewife, she also helps her husband on the field sometimes.



"There was no after-school class in the village. I wanted to initiate it so that children could revise what they studied in school. I wanted it in my village, just like they have it in cities", she says. Hence when she came to know about Pratham's library program, she felt the need to initiate it and implement it at Hyakanuru. Rekha was also worried that children spent their time roaming in the village after school, and nothing was productive. The time from 4 pm to 6 pm was without any activity, and the library program filled the gap!

There are ten children in Rekha's library, and she enjoys her duty of ensuring that they learn in groups. "The good thing about this is that I also learn with children, and it is like a revision of concepts for me", she says. She has identified that children struggle in Math, and she has come up with some activities of her own. "I ask children to identify the price of daily use items and then frame the problems based on them. Children find it interesting, and it improves their Math as well."  For the activities concerning the Kannada language, the activity of story-telling has helped the children. "They now know more words", she says. 

There is a marked improvement in children, according to Rekha. They are more confident, express themselves clearly, and more importantly, they enjoy all the activities. "The group learning technique has helped them, and that is the reason they have changed. It makes me happy", she says. Now in the initial stage, Rekha is determined to carry this forward as a movement. She is confident that her daily interactions with other women in the village will be fruitful and one day, the whole village will contribute to this initiative of improving the learning level of children.
  
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Marzeena lives with her husband and daughter, Tamanna, in Rajkot, Gujarat. Due to low income and rising rent costs, the family had to move away from Tamanna's school. As that area was unsafe and far from school, Tamanna had to drop out five years ago because Marzeena and her husband thought it was too risky for her to go to school alone. So Tamanna stayed at home and helped her mother with household work but wished she could continue studying. They heard about Pratham's Second Chance program which helps dropouts in completing their secondary school education. Marzeena realised that the only way she could help her daughter fulfil her dreams was to accompany her to class. Marzeena had also dropped out of school as she got married when she was 16 years old - this opportunity could be her Second Chance too!



Thanks to the patience of their teacher, Viral, and the encouragement of their classmates, both of them were able to catch up in class and passed their 10th-grade exams together! With her new found confidence that the program gave her, Marzeena wants to work and looks forward to interacting with others without hesitation. Tamanna wants to study further and find a job so she can support her family.

Marzeena says, "It gives me immense joy that I was able to help my daughter achieve what she wanted to."

Marzeena and Tamanna, thank you for taking a (second) chance! You inspire us! 
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Marzeena lives with her husband and daughter, Tamanna, in Rajkot Gujarat. Due to low income and rising rent costs, the family had to move away from Tamanna's school. As that area was unsafe and far from school, Tamanna had to drop out five years ago because Marzeena and her husband thought it was too risky for her to go to school alone. So Tamanna stayed at home and helped her mother with housework but wished she could continue studying. They heard about Pratham's Second Chance program which helps dropouts in completing their secondary school education. Marzeena realised that the only way she could help her daughter fulfil her dreams was to accompany her to class. Marzeena had also dropped out of school as she got married when she was 16 years old - this opportunity could be her Second Chance too! 

Tamanna (left) and Marzeena
Thanks to the patience of their teacher, Viral, and the encouragement of their classmates, both of them were able to catch up in class and passed their 10th-grade exams together! With her new found confidence that the program gave her, Marzeena wants to work and looks forward to interacting with others without hesitation. Tamanna wants to study further and find a job so she can support her family. Marzeena says, "It gives me immense joy that I was able to help my daughter achieve what she wanted to." 

Marzeena and Tamanna, thank you for taking a (second) chance! You inspire us! 



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"I was working as a driver and felt that I should know the details of a car." Vivekanand begins his story as we interact with him at Pratham Institute's vocational training centre in Odisha's Sonepur district. This centre offers training in the automobile vertical, and youth from Boudh and Sonepur districts enrol themselves for better job opportunities, and a better future ahead. Vivekanand is also one of them. He lives in Patrapali village in the Sonepur district.




Both these districts are economically backward, and the reason for this is low literacy and a lack of opportunities in the secondary and tertiary sector. The people here speak Odiya, but many of them also converse in Sambalpuri, a dialect of Odiya. A large population in these districts indulges in small-scale farming or daily wage labour.

"I used to drive a truck before, and my driving assignments took me to different places. I also went to Chhattisgarh once", he says. But that became tiring, and he took to driving cars. That is when he felt that he should know the inner details of the vehicle, and the same brought him to the centre. "The lectures here are motivating, and my confidence has increased", he begins. "It made me realise that I can do many things after completing this course," Vivekanand says that the lecture and the practical applications have made him explore the possibility of starting a garage. "There is no garage in the entire Ulunda block where I live, and I want to fill this gap."

However, the stint at the centre has also made him aware of the opportunities that lie outside his district. It is incredible, he says, that I drove to many places, but this course made me realise that there are opportunities everywhere, and more in cities. "...and that is why I want to work in a big city. Bhubaneshwar is a good option. But my dream city is Delhi", he says with a confident smile on his face. Vivekanand is a regular browser of the internet, and he spends many hours on his smartphone. And that is where he found out that Dubai is a place that has cars in plenty and of different designs. "Before I start my garage, I want to work in a big city, and I also want to visit Dubai", he says.

The course at the Sonepur centre has made Vivekanand aware that there are many unexplored opportunities around. It has made him prepare a check-list which is not only national but also global! We wish him all the best, and we are sure Vivekanand will achieve all that he aspires. 

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