RDO-Educational programme for deprived and destitute rural children

RDO was founded in 1999 by several dedicated people who had been involved in social work since 1996. Its charter is to improve the standard of living of poor , destitute women in the rural areas of the Puddukottai district in Tamil Nadu, while also providing education and care to their children while they are at work. RDO adopts a grassroots approach to achieve basic economic sustainability, social justice and basic rights for poor women, through various initiatives.

The primary activity of RDO is to initiate and sustain Self Help Groups (SHGs). So far, over 125 SHGs have formed to help over 3000 poor women who primarily earn their livelihood by working as agricultural laborers. Members of SHGs contribute a small sum of money every week towards their savings, which is used for internal lending to help members meet the needs of their families. Once a month, RDO meets with the SHG members to provide guidance. It was via these meetings that RDO learned of a major problem. Several destitute women were unable to go to work as their very young children would be uncared for. This meant that both the mother and her children often went without food. To help resolve this problem, RDO established five pre-primary educational centers (also known as Balwadis) that cater to 125 poor children. Each center caters to approximately 25 children between the ages of 2 and 5. Educational and recreational materials are provided to the children, in addition to a nutritious lunch each day. The overall goal is to provide a caring learning environment for very young children while their mothers work without having to worry about them.

The Balwadis were a direct result of these women’s demands and are being run very well. Each center follows well designed schedule that is strictly observed. Children are taught through play, music and story-telling, as well as with more formal charts on alphabets, numbers, simple one digit addition, animals, birds, and more. Recent Vibha volunteers who visited RDO were amazed by 3-4 year old children who could not only identify alphabets and numbers, but also describe associated objects in the context of the real world. Teachers use a question-answer methodology to teach the children about the daily life around them. Attendance is between 90-95% clearly indicating the quality and effectiveness of this program.