Viplow Shivhare, Pratham State Head, Rajasthan
I have fresh memory of my initial days in Pratham and the reason is ASER. I guess ‘ASER KA ASER’ was the reason because of which my passion for this cause of education fathomed. Taking you all through ‘ASER KA ASER’ on me!
I joined Pratham on 10th November 2010 in Rajasthan. It was peak time for ASER. Everyone was busy either training or monitoring or discussing about the survey. I reached office at around 1 PM in the afternoon and met one of my colleagues. He told me about ASER and also gave me my first assignment to support someone for organizing training of ASER survey and monitor the survey process in Jhunjhunu district.
During our discussion, my colleague shared that learning levels are very poor across India and only 50% of std. 5 could read std. 2 level text. This discussion was shaking me up…
As a child, I studied in a government school. Going to school and all the activities around school were things that I loved doing. However, as I was growing up, it did not feel nice to go to school. English was introduced and I could not understand what the teacher said. Now, when I look back, I think; “a lot of concepts taught by the teacher were not clear to me”. Everything was gradually moving towards good marks; and I had stopped enjoying school as a system. I used to not understand things; some of my basics were not cleared and when we used to ask our teachers; they were either non-responsive or very angry. When I saw the entire process of how ASER was done and how Pratham functioned, I thought why did I not have some Pratham Bhaiya or didi working with me. Why didn’t we have ASER then??
When I was in class 10, I stopped enjoying school. I always felt this need for a nice school, warm teachers and other things so much. I always felt I was unlucky. I felt how I wish I belonged to some other state; some other village, etc. etc. But the first conversation with my colleague; where he helped me understand the learning levels; the trends over years; I felt that the problem was much bigger. It was beyond my small village Kahani, it was beyond what me and my friends went through. I felt somewhere that I was privileged to at least be a part of something that was a solution to the issue.
The incidences that followed made me more reflective. My first real encounter with the problem was when we went to a nearby village for demonstration during the ASER training in Jhunjhunu. We assessed children and found them struggling to read the simple text. Some of the class 8 students were struggling. It was unbelievable. I got similar experiences during the survey too.
I think ASER helped me understand that what I went through as a child was a deterrent and that now, I was in a position to create some amount of change. It was something that helped me assess and understand my situation better and also work for making the scenario better as a whole for so many kids. I feel satisfied to be a part of this journey of change. Thank you ASER and Pratham for helping me make more meaning out of my experiences and doing good!