HEARDS stands for Health Education Adoption Rehabilitation Development Society. Started in 1999 in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh and supported by Vibha since 2005, HEARDS aims to remove underprivileged children from labour and train them in age-appropriate academic basics before sending them to attend government schools along with a mainstream cohort. To date, HEARDS has sent 725 children to government schools and eradicated labour from 9 slums.
In this spotlight, I chose to ask this question: How could HEARDS serve as an example of success to follow, for other Vibha projects?
I thought a good point to examine would be the challenges that HEARDS had to overcome to reach this point of success. Like most Vibha-sponsored projects, HEARDS has been built along the ‘seed-scale-grow’ model. However, each project has a unique aim and target audience, and must overcome its own sets of challenges in order to meet the model. I spoke with HEARDS Project Lead Naveen Kodam to get an insight to the nuances of administering a project like HEARDS. Here are a few key take-aways from the conversation on the top consistent challenges and how they are tackled:
Motivating the target audience to cooperate
Many underprivileged families would like their children to work and contribute to the family’s monetary income. They need to be aptly counselled to realize the value of education for their child’s future. To tackle this, HEARDS conducts local workshops and sends volunteers shop-to-shop/door-to-door to speak to local business owners and shop-keepers to discourage employment of child labourers. Another key factor to keep families motivated to send their children is to have easy access to HEARDS’ schools and academic facilities. HEARDS manages accessibility issues by relocating any obsolete, low-attendance schools to areas with higher densities of children in need of mainstreaming. They were recently able to provide a van to transport children from certain areas to school.
With the current inflation rate, costs of administering the project rise by about 10% every year. HEARDS tackles this by encouraging on-site project administrators to develop good relations with local police departments and vendors, so as to enter into cost-cutting deals.
Motivating on-site administrators
India faces a persistent dearth of infrastructural maintenance and consistency in the provision of public services by the government. As an example in the context of schools/effective educational provisions; children might go for a week without electricity to light the rooms in which they study and fans to provide cooling/ventilation. Such minor things which we usually take for granted in our daily lives, can pose as major obstacles to the efficacy of these government schools and demotivate children from working in such uncomfortable settings. Additionally, there is a high attrition rate of teachers from government schools due to the low pay and infrastructural maintenance; most teachers find jobs in private schools or other better-paying sectors. In light of consistent major issues like these, it is important for HEARDS project on-site administrators to stay motivated and on track to achieve the end goal. By having monthly conversations with the projects administrators, Vibha Project leads ensure that progress is being made and that the funds are being used constructively/as allocated, and assist the on-site leads in actively developing solutions to issues as they arise.
These issues are common on a general level to most or all Vibha-partner projects. Hopefully that gave you a deeper insight to how the Project leads and everyone involved in project administration work into making these a success. Once again, a big shout-out to Vibha and HEARDS!