A Day with the Volunteers!

click here By Priyanka Shertukde, Pratham

How well do we know our own neighborhood? If I am asked to talk about the children and youth in my city or village, will I be able to provide any insights? Some of us may stay in the dark all our lives while some step out to answer these questions.

Jyoti and her classmate, study in a B.Ed college in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. They are a part of the few volunteers who will conduct the ASER Beyond Basics survey in one village of this district. While I took quite some time to find them in the village on the survey day, they had some difficulty too.

“We couldn’t find the village,” they said.

The pair was quite amusing. While Jyoti seemed like a stern and serious kind of a girl, her partner was shy but very warm and comforting. This worked wonders during the survey as the youth interviewed found the perfect balance to participate and answer effectively. Both of them were relentless. We moved from one house to another with the ease of a seasoned surveyor. This was their first day of the survey and they had memorised the questions and pattern already. Their enthusiasm meant no lunch for me till they accomplished their goal for the day!

But this fun day had more in store for the pair. While the youth surveyed fumbled with Math problems and identifying their State in the map of India, both of them maintained their composure and tried to be as patient as they could. As we stepped out of our 6th surveyed household, Jyoti turned to me with concern in her eyes and said, “They are struggling so much. Why are they getting stuck at ‘percentage problems’?”

The other girl shared her observation, “Those who were from government school were much better than those from private schools. All of them can read but when they reach the Math section some of them are not able to comprehend questions.”Jyoti added, “I live only 30 minutes from here but it feels like I am in another state!”

It was 5 pm by the time we reached our 8th household. The youth to be surveyed was not well and in bed. But his mother cooperated. Both of them took a chair near his bed and continued the survey with the same focus. Within 10 minutes of the conversation they were laughing and chatting with him with ease.

United with language, geography and way of living both our surveyors may just be a step closer to being aware citizens.