I had written about Asha and her story of running the  SVVN school, despite the innumerable number of challenges, in my previous posts (post 1 and post 2). A quick recap, the school currently serves the needs (educational as well as nutritional) of 305 children (153 boys and 152 girls) from the most underprivileged sections of the society in the neighbourhood. Asha, who is the coordinator of the school, reached out to me today morning with an SOS that read:

….are short of funds even for the day to day expenditure and the running of the school. We have the future and the lives of 305 children in our hands. Their studies, mid day meals and other developments has to continue

Of course no amount is too small, and any amount is accepted most gratefully

So, here I am, passing this request to all those who read this blog…….please be generous and donate whatever you would want to.

If you can help connect Asha with any of the corporates that would be great as well.

Asha can be reached at sreeveenavidyaniketan (at) gmail (dot) com


Another Amul in the making

When Ramji Raghavan called us this last wednesday to invite us over to the “Friends of Agastya” meeting, we jumped at it, cleared other things from our calendar, to be at the meeting and it was 4 hours well spent. Ramji through Agastya has done a phenomenal job of transforming education in rural India. Yes, the transformation has already taken place in several districts and I do believe that over the course of the next 10 years, this will be the only model that will bring a completely new way of learning in rural India and the kids who have been exposed to this kind of education would be the beacon of light in transforming India. And we did get to talk to some of the bright ones from the hinterland of rural India.

Change is usually a long haul process, but what we are seeing with Agastya is an accelerated vehicle of change, already in motion, pushing and challenging the traditional models of education of rote…one that will eventually be the catalyst for change in India by focussing on two C’s – creativity and curiosity.

We were also lucky to sit and hear some of the brightest scientists and intellectuals present their thoughts on Education and Agastya, folks like Raghunathan from National Knowledge Commission , Dr. Iyengar former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Selvakumar from SarvaShiksha Abhyan , Dr. V.K, Atre, former Scientific Advisor, Naveen Jha from Deshpande Foundation , Harish bhatt who presented a wonderful presentation with photographs on the ecology at Agastya’ campus at Kuppam, and of course the passionate talk by Ramji Raghavan on Agastya and its future and talks from the brilliant staff and associates from Agastya.

We came back humbled and inspired yet again by the power of one – one person with an idea and conviction is all it takes to change the world!!

I do believe that Agastya will do for Rural Education in India, what Amul has done with the Milk Cooperatives. 

PS: Today’s Times of India does have a story on the meet

Transforming Rural India through education

I wrote about Ramji Raghavan and Agastya in my very first blog post. Words seem hollow when I sit down to describe the kind of effort Ramji has put in. There are several intersections I see between the work Art of Living is doing in the education sector and the very innovative and successful model of outreach that Ramji and his team have conceived of. This is a model worth replicating in every part of India. Anyone who is associated with the kids education should take a leaf out of this initiative.

Meena and I have been wanting to visit Kuppam to see their work first hand, but and this seems like such a lousy excuse, something or the othe crops up, and suffice is it to say that this visit is due for the last several years.

The good part however is that we continue to be in touch with Ramji once in a while. Two days back Ramji sent me an essay that he wrote in the Education, Knowledge and Economy Journal titled “Unlocking the creative potential of Rural India”. He writes

What advice can Agastya offer other based on its experience of sparking the creative temper among disadvantaged rural children on a large scale? Here are some thoughts from my experience:

  • Develop a vision that is credible and inspiring. A compelling vision backed by a strong team attracts the support of sponsors, governments and communities.

  • …Invest in coaching, training and development of staff. In environments not familiar with corporate management methods, develop a work ethos with modern methods tailored to local needs.
  • Be curious and receptive to ideas and suggestions, many of which will come from those affected by your actions. The mobile science lab, mobile eco lab and young instructor programs, for example, resulted from the need to repond to local constraints (lack of school labs, environmental degradation, and not enough teachers to manage science fairs).
  • Think and act boldly and differently. By demonstrating your willingness to execute innovative ideas on a large scale, you will attract more partners to your cause.

  • Think and act long term. Ask yourself the question, “what are the near and long term social consequences of my actions?” Resist the pressure to show quick results, which disappear often as fast as they arrive

Advice that a lot of us can reflect and use in our own initiatives.

He further quotes Einstein “The life of the individual has meaning only insofar as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful”

Exactly what Guruji keeps saying always “Instead of thinking ‘What about me?’ “What can I gain from this world?” think, “What can I do for this world?” When everyone considers only what they can contribute to society, you will have a divine society.

Water Literacy

Today’ issue of Bangalore Mirror carried a cover story regarding acute shortage of water in the suburbs and upcoming areas of Bangalore. And I stumbled upon a report on how a private high school in Sirsi, in northern Karnataka is teaching practical water literacy to the people of five Malnad districts. The rain centre at the school, with 28 examples of rain water harvesting, opened in early June. More details. here Exemplary stuff.

Toys that teach

Far away from the world of Barbie’ and Picachoo’s, you can find eco-friendly, hand-made, non-toxic toys and educational material for your kids here.

In the contemporary educational system, learning consists of cramming facts sans understanding and questioning. There is no space for creative self-expression.

Adding a totally new dimension to education is Sutradhar, a Bangalore–based charitable trust. “Hundreds of groups and individuals have conducted in-depth research in educational communication and possess excellently-designed toys. But they are not reaching the public due to lack of exposure,” says founder-director, Mandira Kumar.

Sutradhar ensures that innovative educational material, culturally and socially relevant curricula, low-cost ideas for the education of the underprivileged, manuals and learning resources are disseminated amongst educational groups. Sutradhar functions as an ‘umbrella’ resource centre for more than 120 educational groups and NGOs across the country which make learning kits and educational toys for kids. It seeks to pool all educational practices, media, ideas and materials in the country, to facilitate easy access by schools and the public.