Saraswati: Teenager overcomes fear of studying with positive learning environment

Jharkhand teen receives learning support from teacher and Pratham volunteer

Saraswati, a 13-year-old from Jharkhand’s Khunti district, struggled to read and perform basic arithmetic operations. A Grade 6 student, she lives with her elder siblings. Her brother Shikari (19) and her sister Anjali (16) had to drop out of school due to the family’s financial condition. Her father, Jeetu Mahato, is a single parent and works as a daily wage labourer in another state. It is her siblings who take care of Saraswati at home.

Saraswati harbours dreams of becoming a doctor, however, the environment at home is not conducive to encourage learning. She frequently missed school to help her sister with household chores.

In August 2023, Saraswati’s school teacher, along with some Pratham officials became concerned about her learning struggles during a baseline assessment that was conducted for students in her class. At Grade 6,  Saraswati could only identify letters, instead of reading and comprehending stories, and recognise numbers from zero to nine in Math.

The baseline assessment (a pre-test to understand children’s current learning levels) was done as part of the BASIC (Baseline Advancement of Students for Improved Capacity) initiative by the district administration of the Khunti district, Jharkhand with support from Pratham. This initiative runs across 54 schools in Jharkhand’s Khunti district and aims to assess the learning levels of Grade 6 to 8 students and support them in their learning journey.

In order to address Saraswati’s learning needs, her teacher along with Pratham officials met the teenager’s father at home and discussed the challenges she was facing. Saraswati’s father, in turn, admitted that they were not able to support her in studies at home.

Saraswati’s teacher and Pratham representatives also formed a children’s group in the village and made her the leader of the group. The children in this group were given daily learning worksheets to complete. Sarawati’s sister Anjali became a volunteer and started supporting children with their learning. Apart from building basic arithmetic and reading skills, Saraswati was involved in group activities that covered the topics of health, hygiene, types of waste and how to recycle them. These activities boosted her confidence and instilled in her curiosity to learn more.

At school too, Saraswati did various fun learning activities to improve her reading, writing and arithmetic skills as part of the BASIC classes that were held along with her regular classes. Over time, her fear of learning diminished and Saraswati began taking a keen interest in studies. She also completed the worksheets along with other children in the neighbourhood after coming home from school.

When the endline assessment (a post-test to understand the learning improvements) was done in December 2023, Saraswati was able to read stories and perform simple Math operations. When Anjali (Saraswati’s sister and volunteer) was asked about her thoughts on Saraswati’s learning improvements, she said, “We could not continue our education due to financial constraints, but we will make sure that Saraswati does not drop out of school. Seeing her passion for learning, we will provide her with all possible support.”

Today, Saraswati is confident that she will bring her dream of becoming a doctor to fruition.