The unique and the most rewarding contribution of FTS to the tribal society has been the establishment of Ekal Vidyalayas that is the One Teacher Schools (OTS) that has taken education to the doorsteps of the tribal populace. Our founding members have had a thorough knowledge of the tribal life and they understood that such a non-formal education system is the ideal and perhaps the only solution to deal with the illiteracy issue.
The poor communication system, the non-availability of even the basic necessities and the lack of any prominent government initiative made people from other areas unwilling to take up teaching jobs in these regions. Under such circumstances we took it on ourselves to train local youth to take the responsibility of teaching around 25 – 30 kids for three hours a day. Field functionaries are trained to maintain regularity of the schools and also the consistency in the level of education. The training of Teachers and supervisors is an ongoing and continuous process.
To ensure involvement and participation of the villagers, a Gram Samiti is formed from amongst the enthusiastic villagers. The committee is involved in the location and timing of school, selecting the teacher and day to day supervision. This committee through several Vikas and Jagran programmes is raising awareness and contributing to better attendance in school. `Caretaker families’, usually prominent urban families regularly visit the schools to interact with the students and the teacher and to make sure that they do not remain unaware of the bigger world outside the village.
The concept of `One Teacher School’ was suggested by Late Sri Bhao Rao Devras to Late Sri Madan Lal Agarwal in the year 1986 who established about 60 schools near Dhanbad. Dr. Rakesh Popli (a USA-returned nuclear scientist) and his wife Rama Popli (a child education expert) inspired by Swami Vivekananda and the concept of Late Sri Bhao Rao Devras polished the concept of `One Teacher School’ and set up Ekal Vidyalaya for the tribes of Gumla in Jharkhand.
Ekal Vidyalaya is run in the open under trees or in a room provided by the villagers. Funds for running such vidyalayas usually come from the donors who are inspired with our achievements so far and believe in building a prosperous Bharat in the truest sense of the term. The involvement of villagers has a huge bearing on the long term sustainability of the programme. It is the community participation that made OTS saw the face of success. The active involvement of the villagers conveys the message of non-imposition of an alien culture and value system.
The Ekal Vidyalayas have yielded extraordinary results. If the absolute numbers are taken into consideration almost 25 lakh children have benefited from the OTS system. This not only increased literacy levels, but also a sharp decline in diseases caused by unhygienic practices, witchcraft and alcoholism. However, we have to strive hard to achieve the desired goal.
We, the Friends of Tribal Society are working days in and days out to raise more funds necessary to build one lakh OTS throughout the tribal belt by 2014-15. It is the participation of the society at large that can only make our dreams of having a better India true.