By Srivatsa “Sri” Seshadri
District 5630, in collaboration with District 3190 (India), has received a $92,000 Global Grant in the area of “Basic Education and Literacy” to (1) provide 2,400 solar LED lamps to 10th grade students in and around Bangalore (India) through 75 high-schools and (2) teaching aids to the teachers of 10th grade in these schools. The goal is to improve the performance of students in rural schools in the critical 10th grade state-wide exams (aka SSLC exams). The state-level 10th grade examination is the first and most important milestone in every student’s career in India. Failure in this exam effectively closes the door to a college education. The project, named Vidya Deepa (Light for Education), will be implemented starting January 2014 by District 3190 in the state of Karnataka, India and completed in a two months.
The unique feature of this project is that the lamps are lent by the beneficiary schools to their 10th grade students for an academic year (like a library lending books) and are re-turned to the school for maintenance and redistribution to the next batch of 10th grades. Students also bring the lamps to the school every 2nd or 3rd day to recharge the lamp-batteries. The charging stations are only available at the recipient schools. This procedure has the benefit of reducing truancy among 10th graders to almost zero percent. The lamps are expected to last for about 10 years. Thus the project will eventually benefit over 20,000 students at a cost of $3.83 per student, with the contribution from District 5630 being about $1.14 per student.
Two small-scale pilot studies in 2011 and 2012 have demonstrated many other long-term benefits of this project. Attendance and performance in 9th grade has gone up as the kids in 9th grade are motivated to get to 10th grade and get the lamps for a year. Their parents prod their children to attend school regularly and to do well in the school so they too might get the lamps the following year. By having to return lamps, students learn to be ‘ethical’ and understand the positive impact of their own ‘ethical’ behaviors on others. The Rotary clubs will have a ceremony both at the beginning and end of each academic year to (1) instruct all students at the school on Rotary’s 4-way test, (2) celebrate the 10th grade students’ success in the statewide exam, and (3) to acknowledge their ethical behaviors for returning the lamps in good condition.
Over the 10 years almost 25,000 students’ lives will be changed for the better, both in the short-term and long-term. Through this extraordinary project the schools, their teachers and students will benefit by ENGAGED ROTARIANS who will CHANGE LIVES.