(Written by Usha Thothathri, ILP Volunteer)

The Anugoonj Education Program, jointly organized by Mahila Samiti and ILP is showing encouraging results with increased enrollment and consistent attendance in the Chhatarpur District in Madhya Pradesh.

Mahila Samiti  is an NGO (non-government organization) committed to the empowerment of women and children in the Chhhatarpur District in Madhya Pradesh. India Literacy Project (ILP) has partnered with Mahila Samiti since 2009, working together in 9 villages in the Bijawar block of Chhhatarpur District.  The joint objective is to ensure that the community is participating in the education services provided by the government and that the women and children are fully engaged in the process.

The social structure of this community continues to be a significant challenge in ensuring consistent participation in the school learning process.  The abysmal poverty is further complicated by a feudal system of village governance, discrimination based caste/untouchability, child marriage, extremely low adult literacy rates  etc.

In 2012, Mahila Samiti and ILP organised an awareness campaign to cover about 80% of the village population.  Enrollment drives ensured that almost 120 children who had previously quit school, re-enrolled.  Attendance in school went up to 80% of enrollment.  Teachers are now more engaged and motivated, coming to school earlier  and leaving later than before.  Earlier, children who only came in for the free midday meal, are now staying longer to attend classes.  

The joint efforts of  Mahila Samiti and ILP are paying off.  The project continues to drive consistent attendance as a top priority - getting the children to walk in through the door at school every day is a big part of the battle!  Infrastructure improvements are also being addressed aggressively via additional classrooms, toilet facilities in the school, playground with basic equipment like balls etc.  Special emphasis is being focused on ensuring girls who typically drop out of school due to social pressures stay with the program.