Kerala govt's Malayalam education project for kids of migrant labourers a success

The project 'Roshni', which comes as a package of providing breakfast and teaching Malayalam to children of migrant labourers, has been extended to 20 schools this year.
Kerala govt's Malayalam education project for kids of migrant labourers a success
Kerala govt's Malayalam education project for kids of migrant labourers a success
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Jayashree teacher looks at the ringing phone. She barely has the time to talk. A social audit is going on. Her precious project 'Roshni' is being audited. In 20 centres in Ernakulam, over 10 days.

Roshini is for the children of migrant labourers in Kochi, to learn Malayalam. The district administration launched the initiative in four schools in Ernakulam, as a pilot project last year. To test it, to see the results. It worked. It showed effect. So, they have extended it to 20 government and aided schools, taking it to nearly 700 students.

But it all began inside a classroom at the Binanipuram UP School where Jayashree teacher was trying everything she could to help children of migrant labourers. “More than half the students are children of migrant labourers. Since they couldn’t pick up the Malayalam language, they were also not doing well in other subjects, since the medium is Malayalam. When nothing worked and I had no idea what to do, I met linguist Dr KN Anandan. He is the one who suggested the idea of using a pedagogical tool called code switching. It worked,” Jayashree says.

This was in 2016. It was around the same time that the Ernakulam Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla spoke about the issue at an adalat. “Everyone knows about the huge migrant population in Kerala. Survey details showed that children of migrant labourers were performing less in schools and there was also a higher number of dropouts among them. We found that the main cause for this was not being fluent in the Malayalam language, which was the medium used,” Safirulla tells TNM.

A Roshni session in progress

He happened to visit Jayashree teacher’s class in Binanipuram and wanted to try the same method in four schools as a pilot project. That led to Roshni’s birth in October 2017. It was tried out in Thrikkanarvattom Union LP, Government UP Kandanthara, Government LP Ponnurunni, and Binanipuram UP.

“It was not just the teaching of language. There was also an issue of nutrition. Parents of these children would leave early for work and the kids would not have any food in the morning. So we decided to have a package, with food and teaching of Malayalam. We also wanted to make it entertaining so the kids would learn,” Safirulla says.

He invited Jayashree teacher to be the academic volunteer while retired ADM CK Prakash became the general coordinator.

Roshni happened early in the morning. Children would come at 8 am. They’d have their breakfast and learn language for an hour. “There is one volunteer in every school, and in some schools where there are more students, we have two. The volunteers are given special training. There would be monthly reviews, booster training and online discussions to support them,” says Jayashree.

The method may look simple but it needs a lot of training. “Code switching would mean switching to more than one language in a single conversation. But it should happen naturally. There would be children speaking different languages sitting in a class. The volunteer may show a picture and ask in their language, what all do you see in the picture. The children would answer in their respective languages. And slowly connect this to Malayalam,” the teacher tries to explain the method.

The programme became such a success that it won for Ernakulam district the Skoch Award for smart governance in May, 2018. A month later, Roshni got extended to 20 schools. Financial aid came from BPCL, Kochi.

Even through the floods, the programme continued.

Students at a social audit

Jayashree teacher sends a copy of the certificate that Roshni got after the social auditing at Binanipuram: There are 20 students speaking other languages in the LP section and 14 in the UP section. Among them, 85 per cent of the LP section students have fully mastered and 15 per cent have partially mastered the language of Malayalam.  While, in the UP section, 95 per cent of the students have fully mastered and 5 per cent have partially mastered the language. 

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