Amrita RITE - Rural India Tablet Enhanced Education
Amrita CREATE, the education-technology research lab of Amrita University, provides tablet-based, technology-driven education in remote villages areas through its rural educational program called Amrita Rural India Tablet-enhanced Education (RITE). Working under Amma’s strategic vision, RITE serves to bridge the increasing technology and education divide between urban and rural areas of India
What are the Accomplishments of Amrita RITE
As of today, Amrita RITE program is now up and running in 41 centers across 21 states of India. It has reached over 200,000 students, has trained and created more than 8200 teachers.
Who are the beneficiaries?
Tribal Communities and Rural Communities are the main beneficiaries of this program.
Role of Amrita RITE in creating awareness and education
E-Literacy Program in the Tribal Communities
1000 tribal youth are trained in basic Computer Skills and Health Awareness, directly in the remote tribal belts of Idukki, Attapadi and Wayanad.The tablets take technology to their doorstep, ensuring that the program covers the tribal belt that otherwise has no access to computers and sometimes even electricity. With this, students who have never seen computers are becoming literate in computers, mainly using tablets as the medium of instruction and learning. The different modules in local language give them a distinct advantage in the job market, as they become adept in using Word and the Internet.
NIELIT’s online exams are conducted with tablets connected to a laptop without Internet. The Health and Social Awareness Program, developed by Amrita focuses on pressing issues regarding tribals,namely Alcohol and substance abuse , awareness about Malnutrition, Health and Sanitation, Clean Drinking Water, etc.
The training has been deployed in areas such as hostels for tribal dropout girls run by the Mahila Samakhya, Nirbhaya Centres- run by the Social Welfare Board for sexually abused girls, Tribal Schools and Tribal villages. Those who successfully complete the program are awarded Course Completion Certificates.
By Dec 2015, more than 500 tribals have been trained. The participants have shown a marked increase in the level of social awareness and knowledge and mastery over the computer. The Computer Awareness modules were taught to tribals who had no previous exposure to computers. They now have a distinct advantage in school and in the job market.
The following programs are also in place to ensure consistent education in the Tribal Communities.
After school tutoring
Of all students in India enrolled in Grade 5, about half cannot read a Second Grade textbook. About 40% of Grade 3 students cannot recognize numbers up to 100. Keeping this in mind, Amrita Education Centers start with elementary level assessments of all children who attend the education center, place them at the level they are and start tutoring them from that level. The tablet is an effective tool that bridges the gap in learning easily and painlessly. Children learn through games and repeated practice.
Bring Dropouts back to School
Studies show that close to 70% of students in India drop out before they reach grade 10. Back-to-school programs are specifically designed to help schools dropouts learn at a fast pace, and bridge the learning gap so that they can resume their studies where they left off.
Improving School Attendance
Attendance in schools in rural areas is a grave problem with daily attendance as low as 50% in some states. Children are not motivated to attend schools due to a lack of basic amenities like clean toilets and teacher absenteeism. Amrita RITE helps children develop an interest towards learning through tablet based applications. Students show increased attendance, more motivation and better comprehension even after a short time in the program. RITE partners with the local schools where the children in our adopted village go, making sure that our children have increased attendance and become lifelong learners.
Reaching out to the Rural Communities
Rural India has very limited exposure to technology in education. According to the 2014- 2015 report from National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), only 8% of primary schools in rural areas have access to computers. Additionally, the available technology is not suited to the rural cultural context, language and lifestyle, making it difficult for children to associate with it in everyday life. Low to zero internet connectivity and lack of consistent electricity also contribute to these challenges.
The Amrita Rural India Tablet Program, attempts to remedy this situation.
Methods employed by Amrita RITE to educate the rural communities.
Multilingual and culturally appropriate
Tablet applications created by Amrita RITE are available in up to nine languages such as Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Hindi and English. These apps make learning easy for rural children whose medium of instruction is usually in their regional language. Moreover, they correct mistakes without criticism and reward correct answers with a “virtual sweet”.
Works without internet or consistent electricity
Tablet learning relies on minimal infrastructure. The educational software is stored in the tablet, making it independent of internet connection. It works on the low processing power of Android tablets and without the help of powerful servers. Videos, e-books and presentations provide an enhanced learning environment, making children understand concepts in an enjoyable way.
Educating the young and the grown-up women
Chancellor Amma in her keynote address at the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) held at New York on 8th July 2015, mentioned the importance of educating women. "In some villages, women have no education and are illiterate, so their husbands easily exploit them by forging their signatures even for what little government aid they could have received. This is why we have started literacy programs for women.”
In Amma’s adopted villages, Amrita RITE strives to raise the self esteem of adolescent girls at this critical time in their life through workshops and activities. We provide awareness to girls on menstrual health and proper nutrition. We encourage girls to report sexual violence and child marriage. We give them awareness on the benefits of education and support them to seek higher education.
Eradicating Child Marriage Practices
Amrita RITE works with the local community to spread awareness on the ill effects of child marriage and teach the importance of delaying marriage until completion of education. RITE also educates parents of girls about government schemes and incentives that support getting an education and delaying the age of marriage.
Adult Literacy Program
Amrita RITE identifies non-literates through a survey and their learning needs are identified. RITE then provides instructional training in Functional Literacy. Daily classes provide necessary structure to practice of skills. Successful completion of the training enables learner to read and comprehend unknown text ,example newspaper headings, road signs, bus-boards, etc. It also enables them to apply writing skills in activities like filling application forms, writing letters, etc. and do simple computation involving multiplication and division. A certificate is issued to every learner who successfully completes the course based on a professional evaluation of the learning outcome.
One of the unique features of our daily adult literacy classes is the half-hour awareness training session. Awareness videos and apps are played on the tablets educating mothers and other participants on topics such as the value of nutrition, need for immunization for their children, proper hygiene practices, and other topics pertinent to the need.
An effective way of motivating parents to go through a literacy class is to have their child teach them to read and write. Using the child-teach-adult learning model, we offer incentives to children to educate one adult in their family. A curriculum is adhered to and children are made the teachers. At the end of the course, a test is taken and adult literacy certificates are awarded to those who successfully complete the course.
Health and Hygiene
Healthcare is the most important index in the measure of progress of any nation. Good health is a precursor for sustainable development. Sadly, while a privileged few are able to afford high-end healthcare facilities, most of the people living in semi-urban and rural areas are complete strangers to even basic health care practices.
Villagers do not understand a range of health issues including the importance of immunization and growth monitoring, techniques of low cost nutritious food preparation, methods of birth control and spacing of children, the importance of using sanitary and the preparation of safe drinking water and preventive healthcare measures like maintenance of personal hygiene.
This results in the deterioration of health, the increase of superstition and incorrect treatment leading to a high incidence of maternal mortality, child mortality, morbidity, dehydration and malnutrition. The incidence of infectious diseases is also relatively high.
In the 101 villages adoped by the ETW through the Amrita SeRVe Project, Amma wishes to foster value based learning that includes health and social awareness. To this end, the audio-visual potential of the Amrita RITE tablet enables the youngsters to learn, through cartoons and audio stories, the importance of safe drinking water, cleanliness, hygiene, proper nutrition, adolescent health, etc. and social issues such as early marriage, human trafficking, etc. enhanced with software developed for tablets.
To make nutrition sustainable, students and parents are given awareness on its importance. Kitchen gardens and child-grown vegetable patches are actively promoted through our Amrita Education Centers.
Awareness and Safety - Awareness Ambassador Program
The Amrita Awareness Ambassador (AAA) Program was born out of Amma’s vision to keep children from losing their way by teaching them about the evils of substance abuse, human trafficking and mobile and internet misuse. Today, the program also uses the medium of the ambassadors to educate children and adolescents on the gender equality and adolescent health.
Human trafficking is a rampant problem in India, with young children being sold for their organs, illegal labour or into the sex trade. It is estimated that more than 100,000 children go missing every year in India, many of whom are sold into this modern slavery.
On Dec 2, 2014, Amma joined Pope Francis and 10 other world religious leaders in Vatican City, Rome in a ceremonial signing of a declaration against human trafficking and slavery.
Since then, Amrita CREATE launched a software game to give awareness about trafficking. Named “Smart Decisions”, the game creates virtual scenarios of trafficking situations, giving the user choices, and showing them the consequences of the decisions they choose to make in specific situations.
Workshops to disseminate awareness against trafficking are given by RITE personnel. AAA members from our villages spread this awareness among their peers at their schools. The software combined with the workshops empowers the children to make the right choices when confronted by a real life situation.
Through presentations, discussions and activities enabled by facilitators from CREATE, the student ambassadors actively bring awareness to the larger school community at consistent intervals against the abuse of substances such as alcohol, drugs, ganja, and tobacco. They also act as a support network and discourage students from falling into the habit of substance abuse
Ill effects of substance abuse are taught to the children using storytelling, drama, mime, videos, etc. Children learn through high-impact activities about how one cannot see properly while intoxicated, the repercussions of drinking, and how smoking affects the respiratory system.
The success of the RITE Program relies on the teachers we employ in our villages, as they are our emissaries into the village. With this in mind, Amrita RITE organizes regular training of rural teachers employed in all our Village Education Centers. Often we offer this employment to most educated girls in the village, thus empowering them within the community. Health and social awareness is a component that our teachers teach not only to their students, but also to the parents and the extended village community.
To inculcate values early in their lives, students are trained in Yoga and Meditation as a part of the curriculum. Yoga and meditation are regular features of Amma's Village Education Centers. Meditation is incorporated into the daily routine at the beginning of every class to help students focus on the academic tasks ahead.
Special events and traditions are celebrated in the village. Along with preserving the local cultural heritage, the purpose of building awareness is also sought.
“When children are made aware, the community will eventually become aware,” says Chancellor Amma. This is the vision behind Amrita Education Centers and the reason why they have become the center, the heart, of the village.
While classes are taken every day of the week, on Sundays the education center comes together for ABK, Amrita Bala Kendra, a cultural gathering. On the first Sunday of the month, parents of children at the center are called for a meeting to discuss the progress of the children. Awareness classes are given by students as well.
On second Sundays, the ABK classes are followed by an awareness class on nutrition and community kitchen gardening. Every fourth Sunday is clean Sunday in the villages. All children at the Education Center get together to clean one area in their village, be it their school premises, or the trash lying around the local pond or any area that requires a cleaning. Seeing the persistent work of children, parents have also begun to join the effort.
Sustaining Nature that sustains us
Amma has initiated the planting of thousands of trees to restore the balance of nature. Groves planted with beneficial trees, like the four sacred trees - Athi (Fig), Itthi (Peepul), Peraal and Arayaal (Banyans)- release oxygen and are good for the environment. Fruit bearing trees and medicinal trees like the neem are also planted.