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Educational development of the ST & SC communities & improving access to educational facilities through residential educational institutions has been an identified thrust area of Odisha Government. Odisha was among the pioneers in setting up of Residential Educational Institutions since the initial years. VJSS, managing Residential school for Schedule Tribe (ST) children At- Durgaprasad PO- Ramachandi, Dist- Khordha for 200 children since year 1998-99. This project is funded by Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi. The project aims at to provide quality primary education to the poor ST children in a residential set-up. VJSS is also running two schools for Scheduled Caste (SC) children. One school started functioning from the year 1994-95 at Narangarh in Khordha district and the second one started functioning from the year 1997-98 at Kaleswar of Boudh district with strength of 100 children in each school. Presently the school is running with 7 numbers of Teaching staff for each school and 9 numbers of non-teaching staff for each school taught up to Class I to Class V, primary level.
* Ensuring safe, loving and stimulating care of children residing in residential schools.
* Ensuring children overall cognitive and physical development, school preparedness, health and nutritional care.
* Enabling caregivers, especially women, to carry out other important livelihood and educational activities.
* Enhancing the parents’ contribution to and its ability to provision for good preschool education for children.
* 400 (four hundred) poor students from different regions of Odisha successfully availed free education along with lodging, boarding, clothing and food facilities.
* The retention rate has increased to 75 per cent.
* The age-appropriate curriculum has better enabled children to learn concepts easily, and made them more aware of the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene.
* They are now better prepared for school in terms of learning, behavior and adjusting to the school schedule.
* 400 children are able to improved reading and writing skills and math and science skills of whom 35% have secured above 60% grade in annual examination.
* Vocational component has been linked with skill development on tailoring, toy making, gardening and both parents and students reported satisfaction with the way the teachers teach with interest.
* Access to books, other teaching learning materials coupled with the time and opportunities to use those, and capacity to creatively plan and integrate such use in teaching also determines the quality and depth of learning experiences.
* Teachers using local examples in their teaching, with deeper understanding of respecting diverse cultural practices.
Ensuring both academic rigor and building-in experiences that help students overcome their socialization as well as allows them to develop an alternative world view, fills them with aspirations of a transformed life and gives them confidence to explore the opportunities is an important objective of residential schools for students coming from deprived contexts. VJSS have been successful in building in the elements of empowerment but have sometimes been questioned on the issue of academic rigor. A perusal of all together throws the following principles and practices as being critical ones for success; some are integrated at policy level while others are a matter of institutional shifts and more creative planning for implementation.
Creative use of known teaching –learning experiences such as the use of library, exposure trips and inter-school competitions to strengthen learning and generate greater confidence among students emerged as an important distinguishing feature; how these processes are planned and carried out determines whether it is a good practice or not. Mere presence of library is not enough but planning particular activities around that (e.g., quiz on achievers whose biographies are available in the library) ensures reinforcement of academic learning as well as opens up new ideas and aspirations. Similarly, travel to a historical place itself could be an enjoyable , watching a film made on a celebrated athlete or a travel to historical town like Puri, where a number of reflective and interactive exercises (discussions, preparing project reports) follow the act again add to the academic learning and to confidence/aspiration building. Similarly, Inter-school competitions have been Organised for promoting and showcasing individual as well as group skills, and boosts confidence. What is important here is that all these are also planned well and integrated clearly to the dual curricular objectives.