What does the word ‘éclair’ mean?
No, it does not mean a cake or a candy, we have got a little accent sign on the ‘e’ in ‘éclair’ –you see! It is a French word that means a spark, the verb éclairer means to enlighten. We believe there is an inherent spark in every kid, an innate knowledge hunger that we seek to quench.
What is the goal of éclair?
Éclair is no regular school. It is a rudimentary classroom where kids are taught with the basic goal of lighting the spark in them, inculcating love for education, and pushing them to regular schools.
Who is taught in the éclair classes?
Any child who is not enrolled in a regular school, or is enrolled in a defunct government school where the teachers are truant, is a school dropout or anyone who comes from socially and economically backward strata is welcome.
Where do I get the kids from?
They are everywhere, hordes of street kids romping in streets anywhere in India. Ideally you should have no problem locating kids who are not enrolled; there are 8 million children out of school, as per government statistics.
If you have difficulty finding kids in your area, you need to enquire from local service providers – the tea stall vendors, rickshaw pullers, vegetable vendors if their kids are enrolled. If possible, try going to a peripheral area or a slum area and pitch your tents there for the class.
The best place to look out for kids is a construction site – most of the construction sites house families of laborers who usually stay with their kids and this is the strata which is reluctant to send their kids off to school because of the migrant nature of their work.
Where do I get space to teach?
Éclair is a classroom without a room. You don’t necessarily need a closed space to teach.
Look for an open space – a community park or shade of a tree. Teaching in an open space has its benefits; you don’t need to publicize even. There are curious passersby who enquire about something out-of-the-box happening in the vicinity.
You can also negotiate with nearby schools and take permission to teach in their empty classrooms in the evenings!
As a volunteer, where do I get the funds from?
Éclair has been run till now on the funds of its volunteers themselves. It’s a low cost model – you need a blackboard/whiteboard, an ABC chart and other stuff for activities that you would easily find in your house. You may decide to give refreshment at the end of the class to incentivize the kids to come to class. The funds for fruit refreshment can be pooled by guest teachers and friends. We will try our best to fund your éclair from the donations we receive.
How do I get the kids enrolled?
The final step is the most challenging one – that of getting kids enrolled in regular schools.
Various socio-economic factors are at work. You need to talk to their parents and convince them about the need to school the kids. Read about the RTE thoroughly and confidently approach principals of schools in your area as a representative of the kids. If you face problems there, write to your MLA. Our éclair team will support you in these negotiations. You should typically face less problems since we have the RTE on our side.
A summary of the Right to Education Act 2009 can be found here.
Do I get a certificate for volunteering?
Ah, now that’s a difficult question. Éclair stands for learning and enlightenment and we deliberately decided not to bait people with certificates. We want your passion and will power to become the incentives for you to teach. You will realize as you engage in the process of teaching that the value of a flower that one of your students hands you over one fine morning will be much greater than any piece of paper commending your work.
However, as courtesy from the éclair head office, you may get a thank you note for the work you have done.