Shikshamitra: Re-defining schooling

Malasree Dasgupta

Schools are meant to be places of learning, but how many of our children manage to go to schools at all? In India three different Boards – CBSE, ICSE, and the different State Boards oversee the process of education. But which of these systems reaches out to a first generation learner? Despite constant self-examination and change in syllabi, these systems remain only for children coming from families that already have some education. First generation learners face severe challenges when they try to cope with these systems and many of them become its victims – they drop out.

One response to this problem has been the various attempts to rescue dropouts, to equip them to face the challenges of mainstream education, and then bring them back to regular schools so that they can complete schooling and receive formal certification. But, can there be any other method? Shikshamitra (Friends of Learning), an alternative school meant especially for children in the age group of 9-15, is an effort to make a difference. Set up by Dr. Sujit Sinha and Ms Sudeshna Sinha, Shikshamitra redefines the very purpose of schooling.

The author moved to Shikshamitra in Kolkata after many years of teaching in a more privileged school setting. She can be reached at malasree.dasgupta@gmail.com/shikshamitra.kolkata@gmail.com.

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