Poverty is the biggest enemy of education and both these are strongly linked, people living in poverty often stop going to school so that they can work, this leaves them without literacy and numeracy skills. Their children, in turn, are in a similar situation, with little income and fewer options but to leave school and work.
Mahesh Foundation is actively working with the poor, neglected and under-privileged communities and helping them escape poverty through various awareness and livelihood programs. After 10 years of consistent work with these communities, the foundation has been successful in convincing the parents the importance of education to girls and boys.
The birth of Utkarsha Learning Center:
Utkarsha Learning Center (ULC) (Utkarsha Kalika Kendra) located at 792/1, Siddeshwar Nagar, Kanbargi is an education initiative of Mahesh Foundation, a not for profit organization based in Belagavi. Utkarsha commenced operations in the academic year 2018 – 19. In the first year, Utkarsha has enrolled around 48 underprivileged and medically challenged children. These children are attending school from grade 1 to grade 5.
Utkarsha provides a fear free environment for the underprivileged and medically challenged children. All the children accessing Utkarsha are first generation learners. The challenges faced by these learners is very different to children from educated families. First generation learners require a lot more visual stimuli in the classroom as they get no form of encouragement, support or resources back at home.
With the assistance of the generous corporate donors, the children of Utkarsha are able to access computers, smart boards, teaching and learning material that encourages hands on learning. The objective is to provide a visually rich and stimulating environment.
In addition to academics, Utkarsha also provides uniforms, books, resources, meals, regular health check-ups and transportation to the children.
The teachers and the administrative staff are trained to handle the challenges of the first-generation school goers, orphans, under privileged and disadvantaged children. The teachers have a thorough understanding and experience that requires a substantially higher level of commitment to handle first generation learners. These under-privileged and medically challenged children receive very little or no support at home hence the entire learning has to be imparted in the school that is visually stimulating.
Teacher training sessions are held periodically to keep their teachers updated with innovative teaching methods. They encourage teachers to visit other schools to learn and share different approaches to teaching.
The Philosophy of Utkarsha is to teach children “how to learn”. The future jobs are for students” who know what to do with what they know” and not just what they know.
The curriculum offered is student centric. The curriculum focuses in developing well rounded individuals with love for learning. The approach is creating a fearless learning environment, confidence building and helping the children to build their own identities and make ethical decisions.
The academics is addressed keeping in mind the various learning styles. They encourage children to learn using hands on methods rather than rote learning.
In the first two months, they have enrolled 48 children, 20 girls and 28 boys. Their aim is to enroll more girls in the school. These children are in the age group of 6 to 12 years. In conventional schools, these children would have been from grade 1 to grade 5.
The foundation works closely with the parent community to encourage them to educate the children. Utkarsha conducts regular parent teacher meetings to keep the parents informed of the children’s progress and also to encourage parents to be involved in their children’s learning. These children are provided with free transportation, food, uniform and all the learning resources by the foundation.
They have been successful in keeping the attendance rate considerably high keeping in mind the challenges these children face at home. The drop rate has been mainly due to families migrating to other parts of the city.
The school keeps the children motivated through different activities be it cultural, indoor sports, field trips, drama, music, art, craft etc.
They have created an infrastructure that is safe, conducive and a welcoming learning environment for children. The academy has a fully functional library, smart class room, teaching tools, kitchen, dining facility and open-air theatre for dramatics and cultural activities for the children. The academy has invested in the best available learning resources that is available to mainstream schools. Children’s artwork is proudly displayed on the walls of the school.
Research says that children focus better during the first half of the day. Keeping this in mind they provide academic rigor in the first half and the second half is reserved for more hands on activities. They have volunteers who come and do science experiments with our children. Teachers encourage children to participate in drama, singing, dancing and other cultural activities. Children also play carom, chess, snake and ladders and other traditional board games. They also do regular field trips as an extension of their learning.
Children may come from underprivileged backgrounds but are extremely talented. The have life skills and the enthusiasm to do something different. They see great potential in our children, so they at Utkarsha are taking their skills and talent and lighting that fire of learning in them.