The full school year after the COVID closures has seen many successes. It has been inspiring to see how our project partners have overcome many challenges. We present here a summary of activities in our projects. Thanks so much for your generous support that impacts the future of thousands of children across India.
We are an all-volunteer group and 99.5% of all of your donations were sent directly to projects. This has repeatedly earned us a four star Charity Navigator rating. In the latest rating Charity Navigator gave us a score of 100 in Accountability and Finance, an endorsement of our “financial efficiency, sustainability, and trustworthiness, and commitment to governance practices and policies.”
New Project Spotlight
We started support for a new project in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Lok Chethana Samiti runs a girl’s hostel from about 40 girls from the Musahaar community, an extremely disadvantaged community. Parents work in very low income jobs, often are migrant laborers, and most girls are first generation learners. Asha Boston helps support the day-to-day expenses of the hostel.
We continue our support of libraries in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
Asha Chennai volunteer Paripooranam coordinates the community libraries in four villages. The library is a center not just for books but also for learning Science. Creating a rainbow and making a light ray visible in a container filled with smoke are some of the experiments the children proudly showed us in a Google Meet call. Asha’s support covers the librarian honorarium and books expenses.
Major Achievement: The libraries are humming with activity with almost all children from the village visiting. School headmasters are reaching out to these libraries to request support.
Seed Narpanigal in Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Study centers play a crucial role in covering gaps caused by poor quality schools or difficult situations at home. They complement school education, and also act as an extended family for the children. This can make the difference between being successful in school and dropping out. As the Seed Narpanigal team says in their annual report, “All a kid needs is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them.” As part of their empowerment programs the children elect student officers, who take on several important duties. Here is the president of the student body hoisting the national flag on Independence Day.
Working with Government Schools
In government schools our focus is on improving an existing system, that is the only school available to 90% of rural children. Most villages have a primary school with decent infrastructure. But the quality of education means most children who attend government schools are left behind. Delay in teacher appointments, vacancies for a whole year, lack of labs and equipment, lack of any book outside the textbook, rote memorization based teaching are just some of the problems.
Several of our projects partner with government schools to address these issues, particularly the glaring ones such as a teacher vacancy or the lack of lab for a high school.
Mobile Science Van in Kodagu district, Karnataka. The successful project in HD Kote taluk is now implemented in two taluks in Kodagu district. A generous grant from Hansa and Jitu Shah helped us re-start this project. The project is moving towards the goal of increasing the number of students who study Science after high school. As described here, 1% or less of students from rural areas study Science after class X. This shuts them out of lucrative careers. Projects like the Mobile Science Van work in tandem with other initiatives to achieve successes like this student, helping him move from being a low-wage agricultural laborer to an engineer. Further, the transformation in some government school teachers is remarkable, as with Harsha S who has gone on to win the Best Teacher Award in Karnataka this year.
Major Achievement: 3 government school teachers from Mysore district voluntarily signed up to spend some time at Karike, a remote village in Kodagu district during the Dasara holidays. All teacher positions are vacant at Karike High School, and Harsha, Satish and Kiran along with the students and headmaster of Karike High School sacrificed their holidays to come together to learn.
REWARD Trust in Kancheepuram district, Tamil Nadu. We are grateful to the generous grant from Anita Sra and her family that has kept this successful project going. REWARD appoints over 70 teachers in 40+ schools to maintain a 30:1 student:teacher ratio and ensure that there is no teacher vacancy that leaves a subject untaught. These teachers are trained by REWARD, which is the core pillar of the project. The results are there for all to see. As Mamta Naidu, who visited last year, says, “I am absolutely amazed with the students’ confidence, fearlessness, and eagerness. Such students truly inspire me in my small role as an Asha for Education volunteer.”
Major Achievement: 4 students in class VIII from schools with REWARD appointed teachers won the NMMS (National Merit Scholarship), and will get Rs 1000/month for four years (till class XII). A tremendous achievement by these students in rural government schools.
Deenabandhu Project Shaale in Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka. The annual Science Day held on August 30th on the Deenabandhu campus is an important Project Shaale event. After a Covid hiatus, the event was back in full swing, and attended by 2500+ students from government schools near and far! The children’s eagerness was palpable and their excitement infectious. They wanted to absorb as much as possible from everything they saw. Deenabandhu school was full of students demonstrating Science experiments, complete with an hourly open air chemical reaction demonstration (with small explosions and light and smoke, hence it was held outdoors).
Major Achievement: The focus oncreating very low-cost teaching aids continues. Deenabandhu created a very simple microscope using a 5mm lens they found in a toy and zoom function in a smart phone camera. Voila! Any teacher can now show students how much life is in a few drops of pond water.
Sahanivasa, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh
Running a full school is resource intensive. Our partners start schools when there are no other options in the area, or when the schools do not meet the needs of the students in the area. Or if the school has a whole new approach.
Viveka Tribal Center for Learning This school for tribal children in the middle of a forest serves not just as a school, but as a platform to help tribal students meet their goals. It is also highly sensitive to tribal culture, something that is not the case in other schools in the area, which are also difficult to reach in this forested area.
The focus on Arts received a huge shot in the arm with the recruitment of Manoj, a school alumni, as the Arts and Crafts teacher. As he says in this interview, “I try to use naturally available things to decorate, for example, we sometimes use rachis of a coconut leaf. My students inspire me by their learning. They learn well and fast.” To learn more about VTCL students, see this video: Dreamers today, Doers tomorrow!
Major Achievement: 98.5% students passed class X examples and 47 of 68 students got first class, an increase from recent years.
Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya (KSV) near Dharwad in Karnataka integrates the performing arts into the curriculum. Like with so many schools this year marked a return to normalcy after the pandemic, with a focus on remedial education. Students passed exams with flying colors, won prestigious awards, and participated in many new initiatives such as the Saturday morning Discovery and Development sessions. KSV is honored to win the Best School award from Bala Vikas Academy, recognizing KSV’s commitment to holistic, value-based education.