India: Madhurantakum, Tamil Nadu

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Program for Education and Awareness Building (PEAB)

The Program for Education and Awareness Building (PEAB) has provided first generation learners from Dalit and Adivasi rural communities with the opportunity to obtain an education and break the entrenched cycle of disadvantage and poverty.

Dalits and Adivasi (previously known as ‘Untouchables’ and ‘Tribals’) are completely outside India’s rigid caste system. Children from these communities face discrimination and segregation in the classroom, at meal times and in the playground. Many find it difficult to stay within the formal education system in India and drop out. Future employment prospects are  limited to manual labour tasks.

indigo foundation has worked with PEAB since 2006 to support a network of village based education centres aimed at supporting students in years 1-9. and reducing school dropout rates. And importantly they encourage isolated rural communities to see the benefits of education for their children and their communities. PEAB now also offers a structured coaching program for students in year 10 in two locations.

Through PEAB, students are not only assisted to learn, they are encouraged to understand and advocate for their human rights and to imagine a better life for themselves and their families. Many students, who are the first in their families to stay in school beyond primary school, are now aspiring to careers such as teachers, nurses, engineers and business professionals. For Dalit children, such dreams were unimaginable just a generation ago but with the assistance of PEAB, participating students now have a chance of achieving them.

Over more than a decade, PEAB has continued to improve school retention to Year 10 and success rates in State Board examinations. The project has achieved this with modest resources, committed tutors and strong community support.

background to the project

The Program for Education and Awareness Building (PEAB) has, since 2006, supported rural Dalit and Adivasi children to improve their educational performance with the aim of enhancing their eventual employment opportunities. Indigo foundation has been the sole source of project funding since 2007.

The PEAB currently operate seven Village Education Centres (VEC) in and around the rural area of Madhurantakam, approximately 70km south west of Chennai. These VECs provide after school tuition and assistance with home assignments for students up to Year 9. The project also operates coaching centres in two locations for Year 10 students in English, Tamil, Mathematics, Science and Social Science. The Indian Public Exam, sat at the end of Year 10, is a nationwide benchmark for students and is a determining factor in employment prospects.

achievements and challenges to date

After a challenging year in 2013 with several key resignations and a change of financial manager, we are very happy to report that some much needed stability was brought to the project after a full time local project coordinator was employed in November 2013. The coordinator, Kanniappan, has previous experience in working with marginalised communities and has assimilated into the existing PEAB team very well. Communications with our partners at the Social Awareness Society for Youth (SASY), who provide local financial management services to the project, have improved significantly as a consequence.

The team at Madhurantakam has been able to open a second Year 10 coaching centre (previously postponed) in early 2014 and in May 2014 successfully held a School Camp over several days as a community and team building exercise.

We are particularly pleased with the way the PEAB team and local communities maintained their support and focus for the project through a difficult 2013, enabling the project to become stronger and reaching more students in the process. Solid community support and a committed field team overcame significant challenges.

Opening of a second Year 10 Coaching centre had been postponed mainly because of difficulty in locating suitable premises. One of the existing Year 10 tutors identified and secured the use of an unused classroom and then all the tutors rearranged their schedules so that both centres can operate at the same time, with the tutors (each teaching a separate subject) rotate their shifts between the two venues. Teamwork in action!

Another new initiative for the year was the facilitation of an external training session for all the PEAB Year 10 students in exam techniques, including how to manage anxiety levels during the all important Public Exams, the focus of Year 10 study.

our partners - PEAB and SASY

The PEAB team of tutors and coordinators are a strong group, all of whom are from Dalit or Adivasi communities themselves. In most cases, the tutors are from the community that they are coaching and this brings local support for their initiatives. The commitment and passion that they bring to their work is inspiring.

SASY is a human rights organisation in their own right, they have been strong advocates of Dalit and Adivasi Rights at community and government level since 1983. The financial management services they provide to the PEAB project (as well as our other Tamil Nadu project, Mahalir Sakthi) is not one of their core activities but indigo foundation is very grateful for their help.

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