The overall goal of the Building Blocks school program—currently running seven schools throughout Bangalore—is to provide children from slums with a well-rounded education, built on a strong foundation in the English language. At Building Blocks, students gain the ability to read, write and count; they are introduced to technology; and are taught basic hygiene, life skills, and acceptable social behaviors. Most of these children only speak their local dialect at home, and in order to attend good elementary schools, they must pass entrance exams in English. Therefore giving them the opportunity to learn English in kindergarten is crucial to their future educational opportunities.
Every year, as many as 200 children graduate from Building Blocks schools, ready to enroll in 1st grade. However, for most slum parents—who are typically illiterate menial laborers earning approximately $130 a month—fees at good English elementary schools are prohibitive. This means that when their child graduates from Building Blocks kindergarten, their only options are either to go to a local sub-standard public school or drop out of school altogether and do menial work or beg on the streets.
Project+10 (“Project Plus Ten”) was developed in 2014 as a way to engage the community and rally around sponsoring quality education for each of these graduating children. This ensures that the head start they receive at a Building Blocks school can be the springboard to receiving a full and quality education, to at least 10th grade, and hopefully beyond.
The goal of Project+10 is simple: ensure access to quality education up to at least 10th grade, in order to provide these children with an opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills needed to obtain meaningful employment as adults and thereby help pull their families up from abject poverty.
It costs only $480 to sponsor a child for a full year. This not only covers their elementary school fees, supplies, uniform and shoes, but it also facilitates another important part of the program: afterschool tutoring. For children whose parents and older siblings may not know how to read and write in English, getting help with homework at home can be extremely difficult. Building Blocks offers an after-school program (ASP) at each of its learning centers to support these children. After the kindergarteners have all gone home, elementary school kids enrolled in the ASP arrive after school and receive help with homework and extra English tutoring. This 90 minutes every day makes the world of difference in helping them to fully grasp and complete their homework assignments and succeed in their classes.
The success of the Project+10 relies on a core team that monitors and supervises every aspect of the program. The Project Manager liaisons between Building Blocks and the elementary schools where Project+10 students are enrolled; the Center Head at each Building Blocks school maintains attendance records and monitors student’s educational progress; a social worker communicates with the student’s parents and makes regular home visits, explaining things to parents in their native tongue and ensuring coordination between parents and teachers. Finally, qualified teachers provide homework instruction and tutoring in weak areas.