There was a time not so long ago, when we waited with bated breath for march 31st. That was the day results were declared in both primary and secondary municipal schools.
As mark-sheets landed on our desk and children dropped by with sweetmeats, our excitement grew till the moment we had all the results and reached the magic 100% figure.
As we had the much awaited confirmation, I remember setting out to write e-mails to all our friends and supporters - I was not a blogger then - to share that great moment. Then like always we turned a tad blasé and sunk in our comfort zones as 100% seemed the rule and not the exception.
What stood out the was whether any one had topped her or his class. Slowly even that became almost routine. A tiny sentence in a blog post market the achievement.
31 march 2007 came and went and so did the first week of April. As teachers dropped by the office we one again got confirmation of a 100% result and our handful of toppers!
It has been 7 years since we set this trend, 7 years when children have not dropped out but passed with honourable marks. The 400 school going children may seem a drop in the ocean in this city where over 100 000 children do not attend school, but what makes our achievement laudable is the fact that we have managed this result with untrained teachers drawn from the community itself. This in other words means that with a little bit of help a community can be empowered to take over their children's education and contain the staggering drop out rates.
A quick perusal of our classrooms proves that not much is needed to run classes: a steer corner, an open space, some shade and a committed 'teacher' is all one needs. Our true achievement is of having elaborated and validated a model that works.
Now it is time to transfer power slowly and to taken the role on advisor, consultant, mentor..
Another statistics we looked at come April was the new school admissions. Not so much the little children who left our early education programme make their way to class I, but those who were not in school or had dropped out. It has been our effort to help such children integrate mainstream schooling in a class as close to their age as possible. This year again a large number of children will be mainstreamed and will thus enjoy their constitutional right to Education.
The above statistics are important to project why as they validate our core mission: to ensure that children integrate and remain in school. I know that some of our friends may feel we sometimes seem to be diluting our programmes, but that is not so. We have always remained true to our essential mission, it is just that our little team has become empowered enough to handle what once took most of our time, enabling us to reach out to larger issues as these too will affect the lives of the children we teach.