Nexus of Good: Averting a crisis
Humana People to People India’s Kadam programme has been defying all odds to mitigate the out-of-school-children crisis in around a dozen states
The education gap has worsened during the pandemic. According to the figures from United District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2021–2022 report on school education, the dropout rate in classes 1 to 5 has touched 1.5 per cent in the academic year 2021–22, up from 0.8 per cent in 2020–21. The dropout rate for classes 6–8 has gone up to 3 per cent in 2021–22, compared to 1.9 per cent in the previous year.
Educational resources remained sporadic for a large section of students and many children remained absent or were out of school for prolonged periods of time. The learning gap widened for many. The urgency for work in the education sector towards removing the learning poverty was also highlighted by the World Bank. According to the Director of the World Bank, India's learning poverty has shot up from 54 per cent (before the pandemic) to 70 per cent (after the pandemic).
Humana People to People India (HPPI) has been attempting to address one of the major issues of out-of-school children that burden our school education system. To appreciate the substantial work done in integrating OOSC in formal schools, HPPI was awarded the Nexus of Good Award in August 2022.
I first witnessed the incredible impact of HPPI’s work while serving as the Secretary, School Education, Government of India in 2017. While visiting schools in Haryana, it was heartening to see teachers trained in Kadam methodology engaging with eager children in lively classrooms. These were out-of-school children who were being supported by HPPI. The visit to these schools showcased a very good example of how we could accelerate our efforts to alleviate the growing education crisis and look for sustainable solutions while strengthening the existing networks.
The Kadam movement
Humana has been working towards mainstreaming out-of-school children (OOSC) since 2005. The idea of developing a pedagogical and operational model germinated and it was aligned with the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, and the Ministry of Education’s programme of OOSC under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (now known as Samagra Shiksha).
The concept that developed after HPPI’s experience of bridging children’s learning gap by working in the field, matured with the Kadam Step-Up Programme in Haryana with a three-year partnership with Haryana School Shiksha Pariyojna Parishad (HSSPP) from 2016 to 2019. An extension to the partnership was granted for 3 years in December 2019, and again for another 3 years in 2022. The Kadam Programme has been adopted by the State and is implemented through the Special Training Centres for OOSC in Haryana. The primary goal is to identify and enrol the OOSC in Special Training Centres, bridging the education gap and integrating the students into government primary schools using Kadam methodologies. Tool-kits consisting of workbooks covering curriculum for grades 1–5, a theme manual for the teachers, and tools for formative and participatory assessment are being printed and distributed to the Centres by the State Project Office. Since 2016, 81,081 OOSC have been formalised into schools in Haryana.
In the years 2017 and 2018, the Ministry of Education provided a platform to HPPI to present its Kadam model in four to five regional workshops which were held in different parts of the country. This opportunity catalysed Public-Private Partnership Models, ultimately resulting in MoUs with Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.
A model of bridge education was also developed by HPPI, called the Kadam Programme for primary school children, which bridges the learning gaps of children in the lower primary grades so that they do not drop out of the education system. The Kadam Programme gives the children direct goals to support their learning and provides hands-on teacher training toolkits, to be used in schools and classrooms. 82,059 primary school children have been supported since 2018 in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh. HPPI continues supporting the children in the middle schools too, with its learning enhancement programme for grades 6–8.
HPPI has been practising Kadam methodologies for progress through people’s participation. A holistic approach is essential, and HPPI, through its experience of working with the most vulnerable at the grassroots level, has been able to apply and scale up across States. HPPI identifies areas with large OOSC, and the Gram Panchayat Samiti of the area is defined. Kadam teachers map all OOSC in the relevant area of the school by conducting door-to-door household surveys. The teacher, then, mobilises the children and their parents to enrol in the school. The school allocates an area for holding the classes for the Special Training Centre. The Head Teacher of the government school supervises and works with the Kadam teacher. Communicating and recording the learnings of teachers through regular meetings helps the network at large. District Project Office for Samagra Shiksha leads the district-level operations in association with the HPPI District Organiser.
The Kadam Programme uniquely blends formal learning with real-life experiences. OOSC are enabled with foundational learning skills and are integrated into formal schools at age-appropriate levels. The retention of the students is ensured through follow-ups for six months.
A very detailed and systematic process of measuring and nurturing the all-around development of children has been fine-tuned over the years. After determining their entry step through a baseline assessment, an exit step is determined based on the children’s age. An assessment card records the progress of each child. This Tracking my Progress (TmP) Card is an important and accessible record of the child’s progress. Children are grouped together in trios to support each other. They spend most of their time doing exercises that are linked to NCERT-defined learning competencies. The programme is based on 540 competencies and 10 steps across five grades and four subjects. The exercises are organised in a logically progressive manner for children to gain knowledge, and then later build on it independently. Alongside, the children are engaged in hands-on activities based on different themes which provide them with real-life learning. A monthly theme headline determines the scope of these activities which, at the end of the month, culminates into a Children’s Day. Parents are kept in the loop with their presence in monthly parent–teacher meetings and Children’s Day celebrations.
The Kadam programme is flexible in its implementation and could well-adapt to the drastic changes induced in the teaching-learning mode due to the pandemic. Updated lists of students who had migrated after the first wave, and those who had stayed, were maintained. When schools were closed during the lockdowns, Kadam programmes for OOSC and primary school students were moved to the homes of the children. The concept of ‘My Home, My School’ was introduced to adapt to the situation. WhatsApp e-pathshalas were created, and videos were made and sent to children to help them continue their education through distance mode. Regular phone calls were made to monitor the ongoing learning process and for receiving feedback. Also, physical learning happened in smaller groups of 3–8 children. Kadam teachers visited the children to conduct learning activities in smaller groups.
Across States, 1,87,316 children have been enrolled in the Kadam programme for OOSC since its inception in 2016. Out of these, 1,06,972 children have been mainstreamed into formal schools. About 46,995 children are currently enrolled under the Kadam programme for OOSC and will be mainstreamed in this session.
The Kadam programme and its methodologies have shown resilience during the pandemic. It has been implemented in 11 states across the country and currently it is being implemented in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra. It represents a true example of Nexus of Good.
Views expressed are personal