Empowering Communities to Reduce School Dropouts in India

Empowering Communities to Reduce School Dropouts in India

Commencing my journey as an SBI YFI Fellow with Gram Vikas, an NGO dedicated to community development, my mission was clear: to spark transformative change within these communities. While immersing myself in their work, I uncovered a pressing concern in local schools—a pervasive issue of school dropouts in India. This issue immediately captured my attention.

Simultaneously, I was introduced to Gram Vikas's groundbreaking "Safe and Dignified Migration Programme" (SDMP), designed to empower individuals to make informed decisions about migration. This introduction not only ignited my curiosity but also opened the door to a fascinating exploration of the intricate world of migration.

School Dropouts in India: Exploring Trends and Influencing Factors

In my examination of the prevalence of school dropouts in India, I discovered the manifold motivations that lead individuals to seek opportunities elsewhere. The primary reason for dropping out of school in India is due to economic aspirations, improved livelihood prospects, and the desire for better living conditions often propel individuals to migrate.

The allure of urban centers and the pursuit of diverse employment prospects often drive this movement, profoundly influencing the communities.

Investigating the factors contributing to student dropouts, I unearthed a range of challenges that hinder educational continuity. Limited information on aspects of education, financial constraints, limited infrastructure, and migration pressures emerged as common barriers.

As I delved further, I gained insight into how these issues intertwine, impacting educational trajectories and molding life choices.

Community Engagement
Community Engagement

Addressing the Complex Issue of School Dropout and Migration: A Comprehensive Approach

In tackling the complex issue of school dropout and migration, it became evident that finding the most effective approach was a challenge in itself. After numerous brainstorming sessions, a crucial realization took shape - crafting any meaningful initiative required a profound understanding of the school dropout and migration context, seen through the perspectives of students, teachers, and families.

With the intention of delving deep and gaining invaluable insights, I embarked on conversations within the Paljor village. Simultaneously, I immersed myself in two pivotal educational institutions closely connected to the school dropout issue: Gram Vikas Shikshya Niketan and Government (SSD) Higher Secondary School.

addressing School Dropout
solution to reduce school dropouts

Forging a Path to Solutions: Gaining Insight

In the pursuit of addressing this formidable challenge of school dropout and migration, it was clear that a comprehensive approach was paramount. Thus, I began an extensive process of information gathering and deepening my understanding of the issue. I engaged in meaningful dialogues with a wide range of individuals, drawing wisdom from mentors, community members, and educational institutions to piece together a holistic perspective.

Within the village, I initiated conversations with families and individuals who had migrated to other regions. These discussions delved into the timing of their school departures, their ages at the time, and their subsequent experiences. I uncovered their journeys to new destinations, the nature of their work, and the schooling arrangements for their children. These candid exchanges shed light on the motivations behind early school dropout and migration.

Inside the school premises, I conducted sessions with students in grades 8th to 10th. These interactions, conducted both within classrooms and group settings, sought to unearth their aspirations, viewpoints on school dropout issues, and the allure of migrating for employment. The active participation of teachers proved invaluable in these endeavors. We engaged in dialogues about the challenges associated with dropouts and explored strategies to motivate students toward higher education. Recognizing the need to sustain student interest, I devised concise, engaging sessions. On alternate days, I fostered light-hearted conversations about their interests, family dynamics, and entertainment preferences, building bridges of rapport.

Also Read: Awareness Programme for Financial Literacy & Digital Banking Services in Rural India

Session with students to reduce dropout rates in india
Session with school students

Empowering Informed Choices: Bridging the Gap for Community Advancement

Following extensive conversations with individuals in villages and schools, a wealth of valuable ideas emerged. Inspired by these insights, I envisioned a powerful tool to equip students with the information they need—a special booklet titled "Empowering Your Journey: A comprehensive resource on Education, Degrees, Institutions, Jobs, Scholarships, and Government Opportunities." Drawing from the wealth of knowledge gained through these dialogues, I embarked on crafting this booklet with great dedication. My primary objective was to empower students, granting them the ability to make informed decisions about their future.

The effort invested in creating this booklet stems from a genuine concern for both students and the community at large. This guide serves as a compass, illuminating the educational and career pathways available to students, much like a map leading them toward their dreams. Its significance transcends its pages, as it fosters connections between dreams and reality, aspirations and attainable goals. It not only promotes informed choices but also nurtures a shared vision within the community, exemplifying the transformative potential of collaboration and individual ambition.

Also Read: The Crisis of Farmer Suicides in India: Understanding the Issue and Exploring Solutions

Experience: An Odyssey of Immersion and Learning

My Fellowship journey transformed the professional sphere, evolving into a deeply personal odyssey of growth and cultural fusion. Learning a new language became a bridge of communication, allowing me to engage in more meaningful conversations. It was through this language that the villagers shared their stories, hopes, and challenges, forging connections that went beyond words. Savoring local culinary wonders enriched my cultural exploration, creating a bond over shared meals that transformed cultural differences.

The warmth of villagers, the enthusiasm of students, and the guidance of teachers fostered connections that grew into enduring friendships. Each passing day reinforced the incredible power of human bonds. The children, eager and curious, became my companions, teaching me about life in ways that textbooks never could. Through their eyes, I gained insights into the aspirations of the community, laying the foundation for collaborative initiatives that held meaningful impact.

Embracing community life revealed the profound beauty of simplicity, teaching me that authentic interactions outweigh the allure of constant digital connectivity. The challenges were real, but the collective spirit of the community inspired me to persevere. From navigating local traditions to celebrating festivals, I became woven into the fabric of their lives.

Engagement in festivities and chores of the communities
Engagement in festivities and chores of the communities

Note for Future Candidates: Embracing the Journey Ahead

To future Fellows, my advice comes from experience. Embrace patience and resist the urge to rush into projects. Community needs should shape your endeavors. Spend time truly listening, allowing the stories of the people to guide your actions. Engage wholeheartedly in local festivities, for these are the threads that weave you into the fabric of the community. Embrace invitations into homes, relishing the opportunity to share meals and celebrate festivals. The pure friendships forged with children will prove invaluable in fostering connections. And in moments of uncertainty, remember you are not alone. Reach out to the community, mentors, and co-fellows, as they are likely navigating similar challenges.

Also Read: The Plight of Migrant Child Labor in Rural India

Signing off with a glimpse of Kalahandi
Signing off with a glimpse of Kalahandi

Yukti Goel