A Glimpse of Akshara Foundation

Arunsathyaseelan P, Venkata Rakesh Kolli, Venkateswarlu Linganaboina and Rajkumar T of Indian Institute of Management – Bangalore, share their experience. 
Anganwadi at Konanakunte

We are a bunch of 4 students from the Indian Institute of Management- Bangalore (IIM-B), who had to study the working, impact and day-to-day activities of an NGO as part of one of our courses. When we had to choose we had several NGO’s in and around Bangalore. All of us had really felt that the kind of education that we have received to be one of the best things that have ever happened to us in our lives. We therefore wanted to study an NGO that is working in this field. Once we had chosen the education sphere, Akshara was a natural choice. We had done some secondary research about the organization and we were really impressed. We wanted to know more about the organization. Though, we only have had an opportunity to interact with Akshara volunteers and with two Akshara-supported schools, those interactions have helped us understand the kind of transformative role that Akshara is playing in improving the quality of primary education in Bangalore and in Karnataka.

To start with we first met Mr. Ashok Kamath, the Chairman of Akshara Foundation. To be truthful, that meeting made us think. It made us think deeply. He told us the ground realities about the standards of primary education in India. India ranks 73rd out of 74 countries in OECD’s PISA test. Only 1 out of 2 children can read well. He also explained to us the role of government the corporates and other like-minded individuals in Akshara’s activities. Akshara on the whole, acts as a turn-around artist in our government schools and anganwadis. What the Mckinsey or a BCG does to a corporate company, Akshara does the same to our government schools. Right from developing the content for the children to helping the parents monitor the performance of the children in academics, Akshara is doing the best it can to improve the quality of education imparted in our schools.

Government Kannada Middle Primary School, Kormangala
We first visited a government school in Koramangala. We saw the school’s library which was being managed by an Akshara volunteer. This school is under Akshara’s library programme. It has a huge collection of books which have been developed exclusively for promoting the reading habit among the children. There are books with different color codes signifying different levels of difficulty. The lowest level starts with small words while the highest one has paragraphs. There is one library period per week wherein the children come to the library and chose the books they want to read. There are charts which monitor the progression of students from one level to the other. This helps the class teacher monitor the student’s reading performance. Adjacent to the library there was a computer room with around 5 computers. We also had the opportunity to interact with a few students. They were very enthusiastic and were comfortable with reading in Kannada. They told us about the Lego Habba (An Akshara initiative to engage parents in the child’s learning) which was scheduled to happen the next day.

We also visited an Anganwadi in Konanakunte. Having seen anganwadis in one of our native places, we were really impressed by the facilities in this Anganwadi which was under the Akshara’s Pre-school programme. There were a lot of charts and other teaching aids. The tiny tots were playing with Lego bricks and were well versed with colors. The black board had the month-wise teaching plan. The kids were very active and doing something or the other. We are very sure that these 3-5 year olds would be school ready with all the learning they acquire in the anganwadi. The fact that the kids study well ensures that the parents enroll them for subsequent classes. The visits have helped us understand the state of our government schools and also about the role of Akshara in turning them around. Above all, it has left us deeply motivated and has inspired us to contribute for this cause in the future.

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