Combining its experiences with those of the MV Foundation, Hyderabad, and Lok Jumbish, Rajasthan, DD suggests that greater learning and inculcation of habits in persons in difficult circumstances takes place in residential education programme. A deliberate effort has been made in DD to draw learners from different religions and caste backgrounds to enable them to overcome age-old prejudices. Residential education has also helped in the inculcation of healthy habits.
Curriculum for learning in residential camps
The curriculum includes the following perspectives:
- The curriculum fully takes into account the specific needs of adolescents – the physical, emotional and psychological aspects, as well as the learning needs for their future.
- The curriculum is fully contextualized – with reference to the linguistic, cultural and economic background from which the adolescents come. Particular note is taken of the fact that they come from a background of extreme poverty and that poverty alleviation and empowerment of adolescents is the critical strategy of our activities.
- The curriculum is based on an integrated, holistic approach. Basically, this implies that the resultant learning process will contribute to development of the entire personality of the learners and the basic subjects of language and mathematics are integrated with subject areas such as health, science, human rights, civic awareness, etc.
- Inculcation of life-skills is an essential component. These skills are viewed in specific terms (to mean competencies relevant for improved quality of life) as well as generic terms, namely, analytical and thinking skills; social and interpersonal skills; and negotiation skills. Throughout the curriculum special attention is being paid to see that these skills are intrinsically woven.
- Keeping in view the importance of health/reproductive health, sexuality and HIV /AIDS, these areas form a part of the curriculum. The effort is to see these issues through the gender lens and ensure empowerment of adolescent boys and girls.
- To make a decision regarding content the most important factor has to be the learners’ ability to grasp rather than a set of assumptions about what they should know.
Residential Camps: Most of the adolescents who join these camps are from deprived background with limited exposure to the outside world especially in the tribal areas. They speak local languages, they are shy, and have problems in articulation. Initial 15-20 days are required for them to be able to familiarize themselves with the changed environment and to get into the habit of learning and living together.
These camps are run in rented buildings hired for the duration of the camp. Generally, a building with sufficient covered and open space is taken which includes 6-8 rooms, a hall to accommodate 55 persons, enough lavatories and bathrooms and playground.
The objective of Doosra Dashak camps
- These camps help adolescents to get over the narrowness of religion, caste and social position.
- By distancing the learners from their milieu they enable them to learn in an environment of freedom with its own implications for nature and quantum of learning.
- The emphasis is on linking learning with practice, e.g., knowledge and understanding of health issues is accompanied by regular bathing, cleaning of teeth, cleanliness of camp surroundings, etc.
- And finally, a much greater interaction among the learners and between learners and teachers become possible which plays an important role in socialization and out of the classroom learning.
Every effort is made to see that majority of beneficiaries come from SC, ST, OBC and Muslim. The level of learning achieved due to the intensive work done with the learner’s high order. A curriculum framework has been prepared, essential teaching/learning material developed and methods evolved for training of teachers. The programme for each day envisages shram dan, prayers and group singing and games in the evening. The time between 9.00 AM and 5.00 PM (with one hour lunch break) is kept for specific training programme. Literacy and numeracy figure prominently for illiterate trainees. All trainees get proper orientation in life skills, civic education, health/reproductive health, awareness about HIV/AIDS, sanitation and a proper understanding about environment and natural resources. An effort is made to inculcate the values enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution. Each day there is a 2-hour night session during which the day's learning is revised through self-study, role play, evaluation exercises etc.
These residential camps seem to change the lives and vision of participants. They become conscious about health and sanitation and gain in self-confidence. Since the project deals with deprived sections of society, all of whom face neglect and discrimination, special attention is given to human rights. Effort is also made to see that participants question long-held beliefs on caste, social status, and religious division. In each community women are worse sufferers; therefore, the residential education programmes become veritable training in gender sensitivity and empowerment of adolescent girls. Some other important gains which have been shared by all participants include enhanced capacity to reflect and analyze;
- understanding of values, particularly democracy, secularism, gender equity and human rights;
- personal hygiene, reproductive health and fertility related issues; and
- a commitment to serve the local community.