Students from disadvantaged communities mostly seek admission in corporation-run schools which have disproportionate teacher-student ratio. This further disadvantages the child who is differently abled.
Creativity and expression are often underappreciated in traditional classrooms that place emphasis on rigorous rote learning and implementation of command-control mode. Teachers’ emphasis on class work and academic results mirror the expectation of the parents, leaving no room for children to become meaningful stakeholders in education.
At the core of child-friendly schools is an overlooked matter that is as important as learning through exploration and fun: extending emotional care to children. Children seek love, praise and approval, while all they often get is, at best, indifference, and at worst –an ongoing threat of power, from and by teachers and administrators, to get them to do things. Incorporating emotional care in itself leads to child friendly schools, though that is not a complete solution. The children also will need to appreciate the lack of resources and must learn to moderate their expectations.
Endrum Punnagai program is for boys and girls of disadvantaged families to help build their confidence and to have a positive and healthy relationship with each other.
Endrum Punnagai ensures child friendly schools which respect children’s rights, provide an effective learning environment, are gender sensitive, promote healthy living and provides a safe, protective environment.
“EndrumPunnagai” incorporates child-friendly metrics at schools, and encourages staff and parents to consciously improve emotional support for children using three distinct interventions:
(1) a reading room within the school benefiting all students
(2) The eponymous module “Endrum Punnagai” that addresses students in Stds VIII and IX.
(3) Special programs celebrated including an ECO Tour
“EndrumPunnagai”, through concept learning, goal setting, decision making and problem solving, develops confidence in children, enhances life skills and helps them build relationships with their peers, teachers and family members.
It also focuses on personal hygiene, gender sensitization, nutrition, environment and reproductive health. At its core are activity based learning, exploration and fun.Integrating the differently abled into mainstream needs to start young when the child enters into the school. This calls for attention to diagnosis and increased support and remedial classes and referrals as required. Special programs incite hygiene, feeling of nationalism and cultural diversity, etc. and encourages the children to look forward such events and talent exhibitions.
The Foundation established “Endrum Punnagai Centers” in 5 Chennai schools run by Corporation of Chennai, in the academic years 2015-2016, with financial support from United Way of Chennai. Endrum Punnagai served 914 students in 2014-16 and 428 over 2016-17; in over 6 schools.
75% of students voluntarily access the reading rooms to read books, use as reference for project work.
Teachers acquired skills on participatory approaches and handling life skills session
Increase in students’ knowledge on personal hygiene, reproductive health
Increased participation of PTA members in the students welfare programs
The Foundation has had rich and varied experience delivering life skills, sexuality and HIV/AIDS education in schools and colleges, and out of school (community based) youth since 1993. The Foundation has successfully worked with schools and colleges as well as with UNICEF, TNSACS, DIET and Department of Education.
Project ECO began a pilot at select schools of the Corporation of Chennai (CoC) under the name and banner “Endrum Punnagai” in 2011 to address several of these issues. Between 2011- 2014, more than 900 adolescent girls and boys, students of Class VIII and IX across several Corporation and Government schools, had participated in “Endrum Punnagai” sessions.