The Coolie Sangha has, over the past 28 years, supported a total of 53,199 children from small and middle peasant families to attend government schools. 36,659 (69%) of them have finished their high school or college. 16,540 (31%) dropped out without finishing their schooling.
Being a community based and (largely) self-financed programme, Attrition (the gradual reduction in numbers over the years) is higher than in most conventional children's programmes where an acceptable figure seems to hover around 29%. This wearing down/exhaustion/reduction takes place through 4 factors - school completion, school drop-out, membership cancellation, and village CSU drop-out. A conventional programme would not have to contend with the last 2 factors.
Conventional programmes reach an attrition rate of about 29% after 8-10 years. We do so in 4 years. But the figure does not continue to climb at the same rate. Parents get serious once their children reach higher classes and attrition settles at about 31%.
But in terms of retaining the girl child, we beat most conventional programmes. They are lucky to have 30% girls in high school. We have 45% and the figure is climbing.
In the current year, as on 31 January 2012, the Coolie Sangha supports 14,647 children from 135 villages with scholarship and supplementary education to attend government schools. 84% of school-age children (i.e. 5-16 year age group) from functioning CSUs are in school.
- 48% of the supported children are girls, and 51% boys.
- 4,311 (29%) children are in Primary School, 2,580 (18% ) in Middle School, and 4,830 (33%) in High School.
- 2,864 (20%) are in College and Non Formal Education classes.
Mahila Meetings make lists of children they would like to support. They assess each Member family's ability to pay for their child's education, and decide how much extra they need to give. 80% of the moneys used for scholarship support is from their respective Sangha Funds. ADATS "tops up" the Sangha Funds of new village CSUs who do not have enough bank balances. Though mostly illiterate and neoliterate, Coolie women are able to handle large sums of moneys quite efficiently.
After our 9 year intervention, when decentralised grants from ADATS are stopped, this activity is fully financed by the Coolies themselves with their Sangha Funds.
In the month of July every year, when the schools reopen for the new academic year, all the supported children come to their respective Taluk headquarters (where the bank accounts are located) to take their individual cheques and encash them.
The Mahila Meetings monitor supported children's school attendance, take an active interest in the village schools (often times censuring truant government school teachers), and use their balance unspent moneys to buy play material for the children, pay for extra tuition, etc.
The Children’s Programme is a very important instrument used by the Mahila Meetings in order to:
- Support the Girl Child in matters beyond schooling and education.
- Give children a childhood and emphasise on their Here & Now rights, role and status, as different from investing on children in order to safeguard the future.
- Give Coolie women an opportunity to express their motherhood.
ADATS/SCNZ Community Sponsorship Programme
The Children’s Programme at Gudibanda Taluk and in Mittemari Hobli of Bagepalli Taluk are directly implemented by ADATS with support from Save the Children, New Zealand. Activities are far more structured and technically proficient, with conceptual support from the Save the Children Alliance, and technical assistance from the Government of Karnataka’s Education Department.
The SCNZ Community Sponsorship Programme has far more child focused activities. These include monthly Training and Skill Upgradation for Balakendra Teachers, In-house Coaching for children appearing for their X Std. Board Examinations, better organised/funded Play Time in the Balakendras, exposure Trips and Picnics, Cluster and Taluk level Sports, annual Health Check-up and Follow-up, Summer Camps, Science Camps, Life Skill Training, IT Courses, etc.
Though the Mahila Meetings participate, it is not quite as decentralised as at the other 4 taluks. Apart from giving a more generous scholarship support, Balakendras (Children’s Centres) have been set up in - villages where - Coolie children currently benefit from supplementary education, in addition to attending government schools in their villages.
VASS Children's Programme
In mid 2004, SCNZ tapped New Zealand government funds through VASS in order to enhance the self-financed child related activites of - village CSUs for - children.