A major issue in schools has been the lack of teachers. One feasible way of countering this problem is by assigning responsibilities (outside the teaching domain) to students by way of Bal Sansads. Under this, students monitor various aspects of the school – handled by teachers up until then – including conducting assemblies, ensuring bells go off on time between classes, keep a track of good practises and shortcomings as well as plan and execute corresponding solutions. They also engage students during classes when teachers are absent or unavailable.
Such a set up makes it easier (and faster) to get things done, especially since students don’t wait for instructions from teachers and only rely on them for guidance. This empowers students and encourages them to take a leadership position, becoming problem-solvers in the process. Moreover, when they are actively involved in various aspects of the school, they begin to see the institution as their own. Another critical takeaway is that students – who were earlier not taken seriously – felt ‘useful’ by playing an important role in encouraging others to learn better.
Hence, instead of shrugging it off as tedious, students typically express a lot of excitement in organizing student parliaments. Following any other election process, students can file their nominations and conduct campaigns, and this is followed by voting, counting and the final oath-taking. The entire operation is handled by students under the supervision of teachers. In fact, by the time they get elected to respective posts, they would have developed a lot of aforementioned soft skills already.
An interesting initiative started in a school in Samastipur district of Bihar with the help of Quest Alliance is the Bal Mitra Nayalaya. Under the aegis of Bal Sansad, it is designed to operate as a children’s court with the objective of addressing issues of discontent among students. Complete with a Magistrate, Secretary and Director, this weekly court will hear complaints through a well-structured application process, with ‘verdicts’ announced every Saturday.
While similar drives are organized by Bal Sansads across schools in Samastipur, some need a nudge to get things going. Through this lens, Quest conducts workshops as part of its Anandshala program in schools to build the capacity of student parliaments. This exercise also throws light on problems that are prevalent across institutions, including missing drinking water, toilet and handwashing facilities, as well as recreational rooms and libraries.
Thus, in addition to preparing them for school-to-work transition, Bal Sansads link students and school administrators, ensuring that students’ voices aren’t ignored or dismissed. Additionally, Bal Sansads have also demonstrated its significance in tackling the issue of student absenteeism in schools. Although concerted efforts by organisations like Quest and its collaboration with government bodies has led to a reduction in dropout rates among students, the average attendance rate in classrooms is still abysmally low.
Lack of quality resources and infrastructure, combined with discriminatory social norms has been a common stumbling block. However, the introduction of Bal Sansads has reportedly corresponded with students attending school more regularly.
Anu Thomas, Senior Content Editor at Quest Alliance