Thoughts on Children’s Day 2016

The road through Cubbon Park to Bal Bhavan was festooned, flower-bedecked and lined with children in folk costumes. A floral replica of the Eiffel Tower looked askance at a capsicum-studded map of India. It was a vociferous, multi-hued declaration of Childrens’ Day 2016. The Karnataka Government had selected Akshara Foundation as an NGO which has contributed to the cause of education in the State. And I was there to receive it.

The past 16 years of Akshara’s striving flashed before my eyes as I settled down in my seat for the Award distribution function to commence in Bal Bhavan. The image of Akshara office in the antiquated, crumbling building on Kamaraj Road was in sepia tones. Our own learning curve was sometimes steep, sometimes gradual but always a worthwhile journey. The early days of encouraging home-based Balwadis in underserved communities ….intensive and extensive training sessions for these young women…transitioning to working with the Department of Women and Child and nearly 1,700 Anganwadi workers…..bravely trying out a few pilot Balwadi centers in city outskirts where migrant families huddled in shanty homes. Our journey with the primary school teachers from Gulbarga to Gadag and Bengaluru to Bidar has been rewarding for the trust and faith reposed in Akshara’s solutions for teaching Maths, language and English…..the challenge of setting up 1450 libraries in Government schools in Bengaluru and many more in rural schools…… the experience of meeting a gamut of children and community elders in interior Karnataka…..the feisty team of students from Government Primary schools who conquered hearts and reached all the way up to the finals in the International Robotics Competition in Germany ….so many warm memories.

And this is when I noticed the time mentioned on the banner on the stage – the organisers had summoned the guests a good 2 hours in advance! That’s when I decided to chat with the other Awardees. Among the Bravery Award winners for Exemplary Courage, seated on my left were two schoolboys from Mysore who had broken open the emergency door of their school bus and helped all the children out to safety. I was surprised to learn that these smartly turned out boys were in the 10th std – they looked considerably younger. Next to them was a shy boy from Kodagu who seemed a little lost, and contributed just a few words to the conversation. He rescued his friend from drowning in a marshy pond during a game of football.

An elderly man was patiently sitting by himself till I spoke to him. A retired school teacher, he has started a school which provides modern facilities to rural children and today benefits nearly 3000 students. The elderly man sitting next to him joined in the conversation and I learnt that he has been training children in Udupi in the traditional theatre form of Yakshagana. He has been doing it outside school hours with the aim to balance extra-curricular activities with education for holistic development. A young woman who runs a service for HIV infected persons had a most charming smile which belied the fact that she herself was HIV + when she started her work. A confident 11th std girl from Udupi had excelled in Javelin throw and a boy from Shivamogga who was a winning athlete were right behind me.

On my right was a lady from Mysore who is a founder member of the Parents’ Association of Deaf Children which started pre-primary centers which impart speech and hearing training to Mothers, since they affirm that mothers are the best teachers in the early years of a deaf child. After this training, the children are ready to join normal schools. And there were other Award winners with whom I could not get into a conversation. Each story that I heard touched me and made me feel privileged to be sitting and talking to these wonderful people from diverse parts of the State. Perhaps that long interregnum was destined for this human interaction, and I was no longer chaffing at the two-hour wait.

This Award is dedicated to every child who is in school, and whose life Akshara has touched in some way – big or small.

Akshara Foundation Award (1)

– Kanchan Bannerjee
Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation

THUMBS UP

At Akshara Foundation we are poised at a very interesting juncture – holding on to our core values while looking at newer ways to pursue our mission. The last three months have been spinning around like a carousel on speed with more than one reason for us to celebrate creativity, achievement, talent, service to society and passion towards the cause. Here are some special mentions…we are ever so proud to share.
Namma Bengaluru Award
namma bengaluru Akshara Foundation won the prestigious Namma Bengaluru Award 2014 in the Citizen Group category. The award acknowledged our contribution to generate sustainable and impactful improvements to the city and its residents.
HP’s Most Impactful Project
HP Social Award HP asked its employees to vote for the volunteer projects that made the biggest impact. Based on more than 16,000 votes, three projects from Bulgaria, Costa Rica and India were chosen as candidates for the Most Impactful Project award. Akshara Foundation won the Social Media Vote at HP’s Most Impactful Project contest. The award is worth USD 10000, and we won an additional USD 10000 for being nominated as one of the finalists.  
Padma Shri for T.V. Mohandas Pai
Padma Sree The man behind India’s largest school mid-day meal programme and the member of Akshara Foundation’s board of trustees, T. V. Mohandas Pai was conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri award. A recognition well conferred and well deserved.  
Grammy for Ricky Kej
Ricky Ricky Kej – Bengaluru based musician who also composed our much loved math song won the 57th Grammy awards for his work in album Winds of Samsara. A proud moment for all of us. Congratulations Ricky. You can listen to the math song here

Akshara Foundation bags the prestigious Omidyar Network Award 2013!


Recognition in every form brings a lot of satisfaction to the work done and the Omidyar Network Award is an example of this. The purpose of the Network Award, first awarded at last year’s ONEF, is to recognize and celebrate those members of the Omidyar Network portfolio who have embodied and demonstrated network leadership in their sector and among their own communities – whether in collaboration with other members of the Omidyar Network community, external partners, or as individuals.

Finalists and winners were evaluated based on the SCALE criteria:
Sharing – Regular dissemination of relevant learning’s to others who are likely to benefit.
Collaborating – Working with others on problems or opportunities of mutual interest.
Assembling – Convening others for meetings and conferences that drive measurable action.
Leading – Serving as a network leader by advancing collective network goals, promoting cross-network achievements, celebrating network, milestones and otherwise demonstrating the values of a networked leader.
Energizing – Nurturing the network by building excitement and momentum.

Over the last year, Akshara has demonstrated leadership, innovation and stewardship in the area of public pre and primary school education in India. Akshara has also created partnerships and networks to create both scale and depth of engagement with the space and drive sustainable change in public education in Karnataka.

Gautam John receiving the Omidyar Network 2013 Award,on behalf of Akshara Foundation,from Mr. Pierre Omidyar
Sharing:
The Akshara Foundation makes all of its programmatic work content available under Creative Commons licenses, freely shares its expertise and training and makes much of its data and code available under open licenses for other organizations to build on.

Collaborating:
Over the last year, Akshara has anchored a Creative Dialogue on the 8th where multiple organizations, collectively, grappled with the question: How do we nurture and resource the children of Bangalore for a self-sustaining life? The collective insights and capabilities of the participants presented uncommon expertise and perspective and through a co-creative process have begun to essential value drivers and drive a multi-stakeholder change process.

Assembling:
Akshara has used multiple opportunities to bring together various stakeholders in the public education space – the Creative Dialogue, as detailed above, an annual TEDxChange event that has brought together a diverse set of voices tackling multiple problems and internal colloquiums featuring external experts.

Leading:
Akshara has positioned the Karnataka Learning Partnership as a multi-partner, multi-stakeholder platform that is poised to be the leading driver of change in the public education space in Karnataka. Indeed, our expertise has been drawn upon from diverse parts of India and across the world. Our programs and software platforms have found use across India and the world.

Energizing:
Under the Together We Can banner, Akshara launched a campaign to highlight success stories in public education to energize the larger ecosystem and to show that change is possible – indeed, it already exists. The campaign reflects Akshara’s efforts to replicate a collaborative model of education and it is a focused effort to extend a helping hand to all individuals and organizations that work towards this common goal.

The Omidyar Network Award has been extremely encouraging and Akshara Foundation aims to keep working on their crusade to better pre-schools and primary schools because we at Akshara firmly believe in our motto “Every child in school and learning well”.

Read the entire article here.

Ashok Kamath bags the distinguished Alumnus award

Image source: The Indian Express

The lush and vibrant IIT-Bombay campus was abuzz with activity as it welcomed the alumni and students for its 54thFoundation day.  The occasion was graced by former President APJ Abdul Kalam.  Dr Kalam took this opportunity to talk about research and research opportunities in the country. He also spoke about highlighting the importance of entrepreneurship in the field of education.

The distinguished alumnus awards were awarded to nine former students Nagesh Palepu, Neera Adarkar, Jayant Sabnis, Daniel Dias, Amarnath Bhide, Shantanu Khosla, Ashok Kamath, Satyajit Mayor and Satyendar Pakhale.

While the other awards were given were for excellence in the field of Technology, Ashok Kamath, Chairman, Akshara Foundation received this award for his efforts in the field of education.
Via Indian Express
Read the complete article here.