Guwahati: Ekal Vidyalays or one-teacher schools, a novel cost-effective education support system, has come to the aid of nearly 11 lakh students across the country.

The schools, set up by Friends of Tribals' Society (FTS), primarily aims to eradicate illiteracy in rural areas, particularly among tribals, and facilitate access to primary health, child care and gainful self-employment for economic and social empowerment.

There are 38,120 such schools across 23 states with 10,76,691 students having benefited from their various educational programmes, FTS National Convenor Sajjan Bhajanka told.

Bhajanka said Ekal Vidyalays function at villages either under tree shades or in open spaces or in man-made structures.

The schools run a four-pronged programme to make the tribals healthy, strong and gainfully employed. The programmes are: primary education, health care education, development education and empowerment education.

A tribal youth from the village or a neighbouring village is engaged to function as the 'Acharya' or teacher of the school.

"The teacher is also provided with necessary teaching aids to run the school for three hours a day at a time convenient to the students," he said.

A student has to spend three years in such a school the syllabus of which comprises seven subjects. After completing the three-year stint, a child will get admission to Class three or four of a formal primary school.

"Teachers are motivated during training to guide the students to develop awareness about personal hygiene, health care, village sanitation and to free them from vices like alcohol consumption," Bhajanka said.

Bhajanka said that besides education, Ekal Vidyalays disseminate information about health hazards and preventive measures through community participation.

"The emphasis is on hygiene, sanitation, nutrition, first aid, maternal and child care and information on common diseases prevailing in the local area," he said.

The Acharyas are also given medicines to be distributed among children and their parents.

The teachers also provide information on various income-generating programmes to make the villages self-reliant by utilising the local resources for small projects like vermiculture, tree-plantation, vegetable plantation, water management and animal husbandry.

The schools also educate villagers about various government schemes meant for their benefit, particularly the modalities of using the Right to Information Act.

The medium of instruction is usually in the local dialect.

Bhajanka claimed that over the years programmes initiated by Ekal Vidyalays had shown a positive impact by instilling Indian values among the young, eradication of drinking habits, mutual cooperation, greater interest in education, greater awareness about hygiene and cleanliness and striving for self-sufficiency.

In the Northeast, Ekal Vidyalays have their presence in about 3,060 villages, convenor of FTS's Guwahati chapter Pawan Kumar Agarwal said.

He said that recently 90 schools had started operating in Majuli, the world's largest river island, and by 2015 more than seven thousand Ekal Vidyalays were likely to be opened by FTS.


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