Date: 25-07-2010

Bridging the Rural Divide through Empowerment

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt

With the unstinted support of the Fulbright Commission, British Council and the American Center, Saaraketha has been able to work with school teachers and youth of the community to uplift their standard of English through a range of programmes.

In order to open doors for the community, knowledge must be increased. The key to knowledge in today’s world is proficiency in language and technology. The internet has become the door way to accessing the world in today’s global village.

In a bid towards community development Saaraketha decided to create a platform for the children of selected parts of the country to achieve local and global knowledge. We at Saaraketha realised that the main set back faced by the children of the area was the lack of proficiency in English which is one of the global languages.

Saaraketha together with British Council brought down two American English teachers from the United States with the support of the U.S. Fulbright Commission. Then we got together six public school English teachers, who were taught and trained to teach English, by these two American teachers. As a capacity building initiative the six public school teachers were also trained for the TKT Cambridge examination which they successfully sat for.  Thus they have obtained an international qualification in teaching through our initiative.

These six teachers are now teaching English to the local youth using new methods, learnt during their TKT training. We were able to host residential English camps which were also praised by the local educational offices. The children were taught English in a fun, interactive manner making fun and learning it enjoyable.

Two English teachers and an Educational Technology (EdTech) professor from the US have come down through the Fullbright Commission to assist us in this endeavour. Teachers of local schools in the area are given tools to teach English through innovative methods. They are also educating youth of the community, which includes those who work on the farm, to improve their knowledge of English.

Daniel Javitch training the local English teachers of Wilagmuwa Daniel Javitch - A senior English teacher from US

Informal methods are used to interact with students which make learning a fun filled experience. Activities in store include English camps for youth supervised by teachers, at the farm premises, in collaboration with the village schools.

 

Students will have the opportunity to interact in a relaxed atmosphere while improving their English language skills. An overnight camp has also been organized for twenty students to interrelate through fun and games and have a true ‘camp experience’ whilst learning English, where they learn from each other's experience and build their network of peers.

  

The Ed-Tech professor is busy planning ways of introducing technology to the classroom. With the advancement of technology and literally having the world at our fingertips, it is only fit that methods are being devised to link the American Centre to the Saaraketha knowledge centre through Skype, and setting up digital pen pal programmes between US students and our rural kids. Educational computer games are also a popular mode of introducing technology to the kids. It is hoped that the centre will be a hip and happening place for kids to hang out and yet gain an educational experience.

The British Council has also extended support by way of donating Cambridge dictionaries (through Sir Peter Jennings) and granting the local teachers an opportunity to participate at the ‘a train the trainer’ programme in Colombo.  Saaraketha will sponsor local teachers to sit for the British Council, Cambridge TKT exam.  This will be an additional qualification for them as they teach at the local schools, and give them the competence needed to be of better service to their students.

Cambridge English dictionaries donated by Sir Peter Jenning's - British Council Browsing through the dictionaries

Saaraketha believes that empowerment should not be a hand out.  As such youth are expected to work either on the farm or on extension work such as data entry etc., in exchange for the education they receive. This not only instills in them the value of doing something productive in order to receive something valuable, instead of idling and receiving it all!  This reciprocal arrangement will be extended to programs including IT and the Developmental Program (personality building, soft skills, motivational thinking, etc...)

 We, being social entrepreneurs who want to make a difference the world, strive to empower young with powerful new tools to connect, communicate, innovate and take action on things that matter to them on a scale that transcends their locality, making them global actors… 

Rural youth, local teachers, Saaraketha Entrepreneurship Catalysts and Elizabeth Hiezner posing for a group photo

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