TRANSFORMATIONAL “555 GRANTS”: Commitment, Collaboration, and Community
With Vidya Gyan completing five years since its inception in 2014 and the experiences gained, we wanted to do something more transformational. We realized that a sustained transformation necessitates a bigger investment by Vidya Gyan, the teamwork and commitment by teachers, and the engagement of the village community for building pride in the school. With that in mind, our donors/friends dared us to dream a bold move i.e. to encourage and empower teachers to think “outside the box” to foster partnerships with community/parents and create an engaging learning environment. That led to Vidya Gyan’s Dream to award 5 grants up to Rupees 5 lacs each ($7,500) over a period of up to 5 years (“555”) to effect teacher-directed change toward sustainable improvement.
Vidya Gyan believes that the teachers know best why students don’t learn, and what and how to motivate them? Can classroom furniture and fans, playground equipment, teaching aids, technology, water-purification, books, etc. help improve learning? Can competitive and leadership activities lead to deeper and better engagement? Can greater parental and community engagement affect change and how? The “555” grants were designed to fund everything with appropriate justification except the construction projects. It was most desirable to seek Partnership with Pradhan for major infrastructure improvements for the school.
We sought big ideas in which the team of teachers must dream and make a time commitment to affect change. The teacher’s time was to be used for meeting with parents/community, extracurricular and competitive activities, etc. for students committed to learning. Higher grade students could be hired as peer mentors/teacher assistants.
The proposal must include assessment measures to demonstrate improved learning. Two or more schools could collaborate with similar learning objectives. Proposals emphasizing girls’ education and wellbeing, collaboration, and/or with financial support from village leadership/community were to receive higher priority. Vidya Gyan offered Grant writing help sessions to rural school teachers to realize the projects of their dreams. With that in mind, three meetings were conducted with a group of teachers in three different Development Blocks which ultimately yielded only 8 proposals. In the end, 5 schools were selected and the teachers of these schools met in February 2020. They unanimously chose to name this initiative, “Vidya Gyan SUPER 20” discussed below.