27 October 2015
By Elaine Butler, Women in Adult and Vocational Education (WAVE) Ambassador (Australia), Immediate Past National Co-convenor
ETASHA, an NGO that focuses on empowering young people from its surrounding community, is located on the third floor of a building in a side street in the midst of a busy ‘urban village’ in New Delhi. After climbing the stairs one of the first impressions is that of a high energy welcoming learning environment where everyone is both engrossed in a purposeful activity and thoroughly enjoying it.
ETASHA’s core business if to engage the young people that are part of the local community in learning activities and training that will result in paid work, and so open doors to increased choices and opportunities in their lives. The focus is on skill development, building self- esteem, self-confidence and a sense of identity, career guidance & linking the student’s with potential employers after completing their selected modules.
The NGO works on a community development model, with staff and teachers building relationships with the community, parents, families, and businesses. Their program is learner centred with a participatory pedagogical approach. Modules are selected to provide these significant stepping stones- accounting & bookkeeping, computer & IT skills, selling skills (for retail) and tailored for flexible delivery, to suit the demands and life circumstances of the young people who enrol at a very minimal charge. Assessment is continual throughout the modules. This training also co-exists with formal schooling for those who are still attending high school, as well as acting as a pathway &/or incentive to return to or complete more schooling.
Class sizes are capped at 20, with a high success rate of students accessing paid work. Follow up with students and their families takes place, as does evaluation of programs and obtaining feedback from employers (as well as indications of skill needs). Anyone who teaches at ETASHA receives training to ensure they meet the approach that is proving so successful – interactive, participative, a mix of activity sheets, role-play, peer to peer and teacher interaction, and written & practical work.
As we walked up the stairs the buzz and hum and energy of what was going on was evident- as was the excitement at our visit when we entered. Each room was filled to capacity with students on task- totally engaged. Once a number of us (the ASPBAE visitors) entered the room the student (male and female) were quick to start asking questions, & the chatting continued in small groups gathered around each other on the floor. The young people sat through the many questions that we asked the director and other staff members, then the two presentations by ASPBAE participants- one from Afghanistan, the other from Timor Leste, who shared information about learning programs in their respective countries.
While many questions remain, initiatives such as ETASHA are to be supported and applauded for the difference they can make to individual lives as well as to the wellbeing of local communities through the provision of accessible, relevant and contextualised learning.
All too soon it was time for the long drive back to Gurgaon, thanks to the expert drivers provided by Azad Foundation, with much to reflect on from this learning experience.