Purulia is one of the most backward districts in West Bengal. Within the district there are some pockets with further backwardness. One such pocket is Ajodhya Hills, a hilly terrain, deprived of the basic services like elementary education, primary health care, and livelihood support services. There are only 17 government aided primary schools for 56 villages in the entire hilly range. Children of some of the villages walk from 2 to 4 kilometres to reach the school. Most of the schools are understaffed with poor quality of teaching, assessment and monitoring. Differential learning methods for children from the excluded social groups like Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are never factored in the pedagogy. Extreme poverty, lack of awareness amongst the parents about education, distance between school and home, and unattractive curriculum and pedagogy have been the main reasons for high dropout students in the area.
CESR started an experiment of creating an environment where children would enjoy learning and parents would be motivated to send their children to school. In 2008, CESR started two non-formal pre-primary education centres with its own resources involving local youths. The main aim was to enrol the drop out and out of school tribal children, and provide them supplementary education. The teachers of these centres were though not formally trained, but due to their high motivation and some informal training by CESR, they became very effective teachers and change agents.
The experiment came out to be quite encouraging and in the year 2013 Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT) supported CESR in setting up 10 similar education centres. In 2014, SDTT increased its support to set up two more education centres. The total students’ strength in 12 Centres reached 776. Most of these centres are located at 2-3 km away from nearby government schools. Majority of the children enrolled are in the age group of 6-14 years, where some are first time school goers and others had dropped out from formal schools and returned to education system.