Training for ASER 09 in Orissa: Notes from Angul

 Sraban Kumar Bag

 Alphabetically Angul is the first and foremost district of Orissa and is also famous for its rich mineral resource and mining. But the status of education (ASER 08 report) particularly at the elementary stage is not impressive as 33% children in standard 2 cannot read even letters  and 43% children in standard 5 cannot do subtraction. ASER 09 district level training was held on October 23-24 October in the auditorium hall of Samanta Chandra Sekhar College, Bantala. Around fifty young and  enthusiastic students of this college participated during the training and pilot with great commitment. Among others there were the principal of the college, representatives from Jindal Steel and Power limited (JSPL), Angul, and State ASER associates to guide and coordinate the process smoothly.

The first day was a classroom based training explaining the cause and concept of ASER. The next day pilot in the field gave a firsthand experience to the surveyors. During the first day lots of question and discussion took place over different segments like, “How to do mapping”, “How to choose a household, “How to test a child” and most important, “How to interact with community and school authorities”. For their clarifications different mock exercises were conducted along with a video show of “ASER PROCESS”. At the end everyone agreed that these activities were necessary and had been useful in building confidence and communication skills. During this process Mr. Nilendu of JSPL also gave tips to the surveyors on “social dealings and child test” in the context of the ASER exercise. On the final day the surveyors were divided into three groups that visited three different villages nearby. At the end of the day they all assembled and shared their feelings and learning from the field.

Some of them are:

• Student volunteers were surprised to see class 10 children unable to solve a division problem
• The Sarpanch in one village felt shamed and surprised as his own nephew could not answer a simple division problem
• Mapping in a big village with many hamlets, gali and short cuts confused them
• In one village women came and requested them to do something for their village.
At the end all their doubts and confusion seemed to have been cleared and they felt more confident and committed.