Dismantling Dropout Causes: Aiming to Reduce School Attrition

Dismantling Dropout Causes: Aiming to Reduce School Attrition

In the heart of a tribal hamlet, the cheerful beats of a toddler named Karthik welcomed me into a world I never thought I'd call home. Little did I know that this village, with its unique language and vibrant culture, would become the backdrop of a life-changing adventure. My decision to join the SBI Youth For India (YFI) fellowship, amidst my UPSC exam preparations, was driven by a desire to get a hands-on experience of ground realities.

Exploring the Untouched: A YFI Fellowship's Impact on Reducing School Dropout Rates

My destination was Wayanad in Kerala, where I teamed up with the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and a spirited leader named Ms. Shakeela. Transitioning from the hustle of Mumbai to a place where I didn't speak the language was intimidating. Yet, the warmth of the community, especially the friendly girls who approached me with curiosity, made me feel at home. And so, I decided to make this little hamlet the focus of my project.

Breaking Language Barriers: A Friendly Dive into Community Connection

school dropout

Every day in the community reminded me of the privilege we have with language—the ability to communicate, express, and understand. Picture this: going to a school where the language of instruction feels like an alien code, where your identity becomes a source of discrimination rather than pride. In this challenging environment, the school dropout rate was a staggering 97%, with only 3 adults holding a 10th-grade certificate. To top it off, there were no role models for these kids; a lonely struggle indeed!

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Empathy Unleashed: Overcoming Challenges in Reducing School Dropout Rates

Amidst my own uncertainties, the community embraced me with unconditional love and support. In the first three months, I danced with the kids, picked up a few words in Malayalam, and took it one day at a time. The breakthrough came when I teamed up with a fellow named Nithin Vishnu. Together, we started football training sessions and interactive learning for the kids, slowly breaking down barriers.

Yet, progress brought unexpected challenges. Threats from locals, fueled by misconceptions about our intentions, shook us. Accused of causing the school dropout rate, I faced the prospect of being ousted. In the face of adversity, I turned to the community for support. The youth, aware of the consequences, chose to stand by me. Their support turned the tide in our favor.

Transformation in Action: Impactful Results in Reducing School Dropout Rates

school dropout

Over the next three months, our routine became a whirlwind of change. The results were remarkable—16 children from the tribal hamlet passed the 10th grade for the first time in history. The youth formed a group exploring alternative livelihoods, breaking free from the cycle of hard labor. Sponsorships from organizations like Sega and collaborations with Project DEFY turned the community space into a self-learning center.

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Celebrating Success: Small Victories in Reducing School Dropout Rates

Despite the challenges, the journey was punctuated with small victories. The smallest behavioral changes mattered, making it a life-altering experience for me. The unconditional love and empathy displayed by the children, despite language barriers, reinforced the importance of embracing these values.

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Hope for Tomorrow: Sharing Stories of Positive Change

As we reflect on this transformative journey, let's celebrate the resilience of communities, the power of empathy, and the enduring impact of collective efforts. The world could surely use more love, and by sharing our stories, we contribute to a narrative of hope and positive change.

Saima Rashid