And we blazed the run in Red at the TCS W10K!

The Akshara team!

Three months ago when we first decided to run the TCS W10K, we were skeptical about a lot of things. However, we decided to brush our skepticism aside and work our way out. We chose to highlight our    pre-school programme, since this one needed more attention and awareness. There were plenty of things to do and we started off by structuring our work by making lists of things to do. The next task was to urge people to run and donate for our cause.

Though the task was a massive one, it definitely wasn’t an impossible one. So we began our work by sending out mailers to everyone informing people about the run. The next thing on the to-do list was to make snazzy posters. We got lucky and found a volunteer from Delhi who happily made the posters for us. The olive green and the yellow poster did stand out and make an impact.

While we were gathering the runners we also wanted to make sure we stood out of the crowd. We had no intentions of merging with the crowd this year unlike last year and so this year we chose a blazing red colour for our t-shirts. What made the T-shirt even better was this awesome design depicting Pre-schools by our very own Megha Vishwanath who is a techie and an awesome painter all at the same time.

Soon we moved to the next task of getting more runners.  In the end, we had a strong contingent of 69 runners, with 36 of them doing the 10kms and the remaining 33 of them participating in the 5.7kms Majja run.Coaxing people to run is not easy, and getting people to run for a cause is a much more difficult a task. But nevertheless, we managed to get runners.  Akshara’s very own Care Champion Gautam John was game for a 10k run again this year.

Our corporate sponsors Analog Devices India helped us not just raise money but also run for us. A mighty team of 20 members chose to run donning the Akshara T-shirt.  The best part about the runners from Analog Devices India was that all 20 of them chose to run the 10k. While most of them were first timers, they were all pumped up to run.  At the end of the race, all of them wore a happy smile irrespective of how much their bones and muscles hurt.

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19th May 2013, a cloudy morning the Akshara team gathered at the Gate A of the Shree Kanteerva Stadium. The 10kms open run began at dot 7.22am. While some were first timers, others were seasoned runners, yet all of them had just one thing on their mind and that was to finish the run no matter what. We all looked a dapper in our blazing red Akshara t-shirts. Armed with our running bibs, placards and kits we were all ready to get started.  While the 10k runners began their run before us, the 5.7kms run was mostly a jolly fun run and hence aptly named the Majja run!

Finally at 8.30am, we moved to towards the stadium with hooting, whistling and lots of noise. It was a sea of people there, all running for a cause.  This time we surely stood apart from most others as we blazed the run route in our bright red t-shirts which talked about pre-school education. Since our crusade this year was to promote pre-school education, we made placards themed around pre-schools and its importance.

On the way we were greeted by a lot of supporters who cheered and clapped for us. That was truly encouraging.  And post the run, there was a nice good breakfast which made the run worthwhile. So, all in all, it was a fun experience with everyone pitching in to do their best.

The run was more than just a run for us. It was our chance to get people’s attention towards our cause. As we ran the course, we knew that our bit was going to be a big help to those little kiddies who are deprived of quality education and basic facilities.

The run was surely a memorable experience for all and we hope that it will help us push our crusade and get help in the form of donations and volunteers. We at Akshara thank each and everyone who helped us put this event together. . A heart-felt thanks to all our donors for helping us raise 6.65 lakhs so far. It’s been an adventurous bumpy ride, but yes a great learning experience too.

“Kudos to the Teachers”

Together, We Can is an Akshara campaign for action in education. It is based on the simple axiom that people when they get together can do far more than when they are out there alone, striving along lonely furrows. This is a platform where stakeholders in education can congregate for a common cause.

On the 18th of April, Together, We Can organised the first of many sustained campaigns to come, with a signature public function to salute two government centres of education,distinguished by their pursuit of excellence. Konankunte Anganwadi in Bangalore and the Government Kannada Lower Primary School (GKLPS) in Marasandahalli, Hoskote Block, function within a system that is known more for poor delivery and under-achievement, and yet they are a cut above, occupying niche spaces,with teachers like Sunanda, Nagarani and Shyam Shankar who uphold the high ideals of the teaching profession.

Journalists from the print media, invited to the event, covered these exemplary newsmakers in the next editions of their newspapers.

The Times of India’s report online generated a wave of enthusiastic reader responses, with 56 comments posted by people from all over India – from the UK and Australia as well – profuse with praise and acknowledgement for three stalwarts who brighten the sometimes tarnished image of the government teaching fraternity.  They are citizens ready to reciprocate to stories that highlight the positive. Especially in a depressing climate when corruption, scams, rape, ineptitude and ignominy never seem to vacate the headlines.

As B. Shiv Kumar from Nizamabad said, “This is a great piece of news. After reading about crimes like molestation, robberies, murder and cheating it is refreshing to read about the good work done by some noble souls. Congratulations to Ms.Nagarani, Mr.Shyam Shankar and Ms.Sunanda for their selfless service.”

Rajesh from Bangalore remarked pungently, “There are at least some dedicated people in the corruption capital of India!”

For most readers it was this overturning of the dark, seamy narrative of everyday news that struck a chord, the story a counter-current to the negativity that permeates national discourse.

ShitijTyagi from Melbourne in his long post despaired of the excessive focus on India’s negative side. “We Indians have talent, ability and success stories, but lack leadership…..” Shitij sought to re-establish India’s confidence and wrote about the country’s inspiring accomplishments in many fields. The sentiments vibrated, sparking a conversation within a conversation, and its own little chain of comments.

GovindBharad of Akola and Bonny Moraes of Goa reminisced about an era when idealism etched the lives people led. They spoke of village teachers whose hallmarks were sincerity, purpose, relentless hard work for an absolute pittance, and selfless service

The people who responded have great reverence for teaching, placing it on a high pedestal, the work the teachers do ennobling them.

Annamalai wrote, “Kudos to the teachers. They are assets to this noble profession. Let other teachers follow in their footsteps.”

Danem Group from Kasargod commented, “These teachers are doing what they ought to do. Teaching is one of the noblest professions and they are doing justice to it by imparting knowledge and learning unselfishly and in a dedicated manner. The schools also should be applauded for their dedication and support to these teachers.”

A little window here then to the three teachers who have aroused such heart-warming responses in The Times of India. Sunanda, the anganwadi teacher, has spent thirty six years of her professional life steering the Konankunte Anganwadi to new heights. She has an unshakeable belief in the transformative power of education and is an unsparing, but fun-filled teacher to her students. Nagarani and Shyam Shankar of the Marasandahalli school travel 42 kilometres every morning to get to school, and are rarely absent. Together they make a formidable team, inculcating in students values, leadership and a desire for goal-oriented academic progression.

It amazes ordinary, concerned citizens that in government there are custodians of education actually doing their job. It restores faith in a system that is increasingly ceasing to inspire.

As Vaibhav Jindal from Mumbai noted in Hindi, “It feels good to hear that there are people in government jobs putting in so much effort.”

Learn something from these role models was a message that rang out, along with the overflow of goodwill and affirmation.

Amol from Delhi said, “These are real heroes. Politicians, corporates and the media should learn something from them.”

Krsna099 from Malura, Dalhousie said, “….government schools are despised and known as ‘jhuggi jhonpdi schools’ (slum schools.) …..the standard of education in these schools is low and that is because the teachers posted there perhaps do not take interest. The examples from Bangalore show that if teachers are really sincere and dedicated and view their employment as social service, they can turn the tide. Education Departments must learn from this story.”

For every reader that responded there must be ten others who chose to remain silent. Akshara hopes this silent majority will also come forth and participate in a process that needs civil society’s active intervention. Sunanda, Nagarani and Shyam Shankar are symbols of hope.They bring fresh momentum to the stagnant status quo of education. Their stories lift morale. People feel restored and uplifted and inspired to do something.

As Gopal B. from Bombay observed, “Such inspiring stories should be given wide coverage so that the public at large get inspired to do their bit. It is depressing to read newspapers with so much of negative news, which affects people and their mindset when working. But these inspiring stories are like a breath of fresh air and will surely inspire people and dispel the gloom.”

Finally, in the words of Pardeep Singh of Ludhiana, “Thank God, something to cheer about.”

Read the article here:

TEDx Bangalore Change – Ideas for a Positive Change!

TED is a non-profit organisation which focuses on Ideas Worth Spreading. TED champions  propagates ideas that can have a global impact. Every year TED brings together across the world   thinkers, doers, activists – who present their thoughts, their learning, their ideas and views.

TEDx is a programme of local, self-organised events that offer a TED-like experience, where speakers get audiences to think, understand and engage. The x stands for independently organised TED event. 

TEDx Bangalore change was all about Positive Disruptions. This cross-disciplinary event organized by Akshara Foundation, focused on the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the whole world across a wide range of sector. The event was held on 4th of April 2013 at the Bangalore International Centre Auditorium.
Most often disruption is unwelcome, but sometimes disruption can spur positive spin-offs, cast a fresher look at the old, obstinate issues and precipitates change. The speakers for the event were  Sean Blagsvedt, SrikanthNadhamuni, V. Ravichander, Dr.Rukmini Banerjee and Dr. G.K. Jayaram.

 Rethinking Privacy, Sean Blagsvedt

Sean Blagsvedt is the Founder of, a job search site that make use of the power of digital social networking for India’s poor. His talk on Rethinking Privacy is of great relevance at a time when personal data is increasingly public property. Individual privacy, though not nearly at its languishing end, is at threat,and must engage in a non-zero sum interaction with the systems it is pitted against, so that there are no losers, only winners. It is a trade-off, Sean Blagsvedt argued, a few freedoms for the security and safety of being in a collective. Trust is key he reiterated. The poor get done in because they have no identity, no trust. is built around the principles of access and trust which can get better jobs for people who have little or no access and contact to worlds outside their own. 

Disruptive Technology for a Billion People – Srikanth Nadhamuni

In his talk,Disruptive Technology for a Billion People, Srikanth Nadhamuni, CEO of Khosla Labs and previously Head of Technology, Unique Identity Authority (UID), stated the case for technology, how, harnessed and channeled, it can erase some of India’s major problems. The country has witnessed a dramatic growth of technology. In short e-governance would improve quality and eliminate corruption. The railway reservation system is a case in point – from the  days where queues and chaos were an integral part of getting railway tickets to the online efficiency of today.  The Architecture of Good Governance begins with the computer, a fair, dispassionate deity, neither swayed nor influenced, and incorruptible. A technology-driven apparatus of a centralized system and a “data repository” simplifies life, distributes access and allays the travail of ordinary Indian citizens. A ration card will work at any public distribution outlet anywhere in the country. A weekly National Rural Employment Guarantee entitlement is available almost instantaneously as cash from any village micro ATM. Technology eats into the heart of corruption. It changes the landscape of governance.

Co-Creating Cities, V. Ravichander

In his talk, Co-Creating Cities, V. Ravichander who has 32 years of experience in Research and Consulting, began by sketching the grim picture of runaway urban growth, mismanaged,characterized by sloppy governance, skewed priorities and lack of vision. He called for collaboration between business and government. A good, functioning, well-provisioned city means good business. It boosts bottom lines, and so business, with its resources and proven delivery track record, should come up with engagement models. Ravichander highlighted the role of City Connect, a civil society movement strengthened by business participation, that believes in the professional, outcome-based management of cities. A striking example is its work-in-progress mission for Bangalore roads. And since we live in the Age of Garbage in this city, Ravichander proposed the responsible, sustainable and decentralised disposal of a festering problem. In an impassioned conclusion, he said that we as citizens must change to be able to do something about the way our cities are going.

Disruptive Learning in 45 Days, Dr.Rukmini Banerji

Dr.Rukmini Banerji has been an active member of the core team of ASER, the Pratham-facilitated Annual Status of Education Report, since 2005 and currently heads ASER Centre. Her talk, Disruptive Learning in 45 Days, was illuminating,engaging and thought provoking. In an anecdotal way she made telling, hard-hitting points on the state of learning in India. The genesis of ASER lies in a small experiment Pratham began many years ago with children who were left behind and could not read – in school maybe, but nowhere on par. Dr.Banerji and hundreds of people like her wrought a miracle with village children, turning those who stuttered and stumbled over letters into confident, fluent readers of sentences. All in 45 days, using a specially designed tool, a simple reading expedient that went on to become a rallying point not just to teach children how to read but to engage communities. It moved to the next dimension of a village report card and a learning survey of children, and ASER had begun, in embryo form. Its reading and Mathematics statistics are always cause for dismay and concern. Dr. Banerji called education one of India’s biggest problem areas and urged people to engage groups of children in reading, using appropriate material. Two hours a day for thirty or forty days. If hundreds and thousands of us can do it India will change forever, she said.

Transcendental Leadership, Dr. G.K. Jayaram

Dr. G.K. Jayaram is Founder Director of the Institute of Leadership and Institutional Development. In his talk on Transcendental Leadership,he enunciated the need for leadership in this era of reduced opportunities and dwindling expectations. An era of crisis, as it were – 8.1 million children in India who do not even see a school, poverty still stalking, people going hungry.  It is a time for leadership everywhere. Dr.Jayaram enumerated the qualities of a leader. Integrity and character are the very foundation, in an environment of falling values, lack of probity and moral decay. Intelligence and intuition, like courage and intensity, passion with purpose, are vital attributes. A leader needs to be self-aware, have empathy andinter-personal wisdom. India needs leaders who, while retaining command of the present,are able to envision the future, strategise for it, he said.

Do Not Judge them by their Appearances

Monalisa Hota from our Research team shares an interesting anecdote with us.

I visited this school in the Boodegere Cluster during one of my routine visits for supervision of RCT (Randomised Control Trial) Assessment Tests being carried out by our (Akshara Foundation’s) Field Coordinators. This school was a Control school, meaning that Akshara Foundation does not support this school with training and learning materials. The first impression I got of the school was due to its dilapidated pathways within its premises; these were laid with large sharp stones all over the front of the first building which made walking painful and, I should say, wobbly. Walking around this Higher Primary School, one could see a lot of open space waiting to be beautified and utilized for sports, games and gardening. As we approached the classes, it got worse; the classes and corridors seemed as though they have never been swept before; the toilets stank and so did the classrooms situated next to them; and the children were dirty from head to toe with the dust that stuck to their feet and clothes from the floor. Despite these indicators, there was something that felt right about this school. The teachers came across as confident and were found capable of handling a class of about 20-30 kids; and more surprisingly, the children, especially that of standard 4, were all bright eyed and bushy tailed…. brimming with confidence and mischief.

We got a chance to dig a bit further as this standard 4 was not being monitored by any teacher and we were needed to keep them from disturbing the data collector (who sat outside this class testing children). So, we tried to keep them engaged and entertained in ways that we could. We started with performances and the girls came forward to present their group songs followed by solo performances by some boys. They seemed fully in control of their actions and were very entertaining too, despite bantering from an overzealous audience. Surprisingly, there were not just one or two but many children willing to come forward and perform.

The performers!

Once this was over, suddenly one boy’s curiosity spread across the entire class and I found all of their eyes on me. Until then, I was quietly enjoying their performances and interactions. In no time, they surrounded us and started asking my name: nimma hesara yenu, miss? then switching to Hindi- aapka naam kya hai, miss? I quietly looked at all of them and then asked them to ‘guess’. They misunderstood and thought that I am asking them to GIVE me a name. Names started pouring out as I was given a range of names ….Shanta, Savitri, Anuradha …While they excitedly brainstormed, I fumbled to find an expression for ‘guess’! Could not find the word then (but on asking around later on, I found its meaning is close to an Urdu word andaaza). Anyhow, they gave up and started asking my name again. So, Shreedevi intervened with some clues to keep the game going. Clue #1: World-famous lady: Response= Indira Gandhi. I did not see that coming!; Clue #2: Starts with ‘mo’ and has four characters (in Kannada of course); Clue #3: Ends in ‘sa’. Seriously thinking by now, they were taken to the board where she wrote ‘mo’ followed by two blanks followed by ‘sa’. Amidst all that noise that did not sound anywhere closer to the name, I heard it.


It was a little girl’s voice who got shy as I spotted her. She had got it right and that was mighty impressive!! Well done! All of us praised her by applauding and I (ritualistically) took her picture. The quiz ended there (I was happy to see my name find its place in something more useful than just causing raised eye-brows and you-are-kidding expressions). Next time, may be I would carry a picture of the painting itself so they’d have something more to associate it with. Finally, we decided to just quickly see if they could read from their own text book; there was no child who could not read from the Kannada book they were asked to read from. As we left them to read among themselves, I could not help but notice what a lively mix of mischief, discipline and intelligence there was in that class. I no longer got distracted by the unpaved bumpy pathway and wondered what was working there.
Appearances are deceptive: an old adage got re-inforced (once again) by this visit.

‘Together, We Can’: An initiative by Akshara Foundation

Akshara Foundation today launched ‘Together, we can’, a campaign to highlight success stories of anganwadis and government primary schools and the necessity to replicate such models throughout the state and the country. The event was organized at the Bangalore International Centre on Thursday.

The former Additional Chief Secretary of the Government of Karnataka, Dr. Chiranjeevi Singh, presided over the event and shared some key learning’s from the success of government led initiatives in education and with the ICDS scheme. He also stressed on the importance of learning outcomes and overall development of children. Eminent personalities from the city were present along with distinguished figures from several NGOs, schools, academic and research institutes.  The panel discussions at the event brought to light the necessity for collaboration among various stakeholders.

Ashok Kamath, Chairman, Akshara Foundation reiterated the key findings of the Annual Status of Education Report, emphasizing the poor learning outcomes of students. He said, “Educating children is a social responsibility which rests on ALL of us – parents, teachers, schools, government, ordinary citizens, corporates, industry, academia and the media. The need of the hour is to bring these various stakeholders together to collaborate and put a collective effort into our education system. This collective effort is not just about enrolling children in school but also ensuring they learn well. Here, the onus and accountability lies with us.”

“Every child has the right to be educated and it is our duty to provide quality education to each child. Quality education can be imparted only if we have a sound and efficient system that understands the learning needs of children,” said Kanchan Bannerjee, Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation. “Akshara Foundation has championed the cause of access to quality pre-school and elementary education as a fundamental pillar for the holistic development of children.   Akshara Foundation’s programmes and initiatives are designed to improve overall learning outcomes and are easily scalable and replicable anywhere.”

The scope of the event reflects Akshara Foundation’s efforts to replicate the collaborative model of education across Karnataka and to make early education a top priority for the state government. ‘Together, We Can’ is a focused effort to extend a helping hand to all individuals and organizations that work towards this common goal.

What does Akshara Foundation do?

Akshara Foundation was established in the year 2000 with a mission to ensure that every child is in school and learning well. Over the last thirteen years, Akshara has run multiple programs that have all been designed to be comprehensive, scalable and cost-effective solutions – both remedial and supplementary education models. All Akshara’s programs are child-centric and are designed to ensure that enrolment in schools increase, drop-outs from schools decrease and that children’s learning outcomes and overall development improve. To date, Akshara Foundation has impacted over 800,000 children in the state of Karnataka with its programmes and has successfully engaged with the government-run anganwadis and government primary schools across Bangalore and also in rural Karnataka especially in Koppal, Gadag and Dharwad districts.
Akshara works in close partnership with the Education Department of the Government of Karnataka and the Department of Women and Child Welfare to supplement existing primary school and pre-primary school programs.

The Lego Habba Success Story

Source: Shikshana Varthe, Sarva shiksha Abhiyan, Education Dept. 

Akshara Foundation’s  Library organized the Lego Habba in the schools in Bangalore. Out of the 135 schools where the Akshara libraries are functional, the event was held in 16 schools. This event was not just welcomed with enthusiasm and zeal by the students but the teachers were equally happy to participate.

The Lego Habba was more than a celebration, it was an effort that brought together students, teachers, volunteers together but also gave them a chance to bring out their creativity in a manner that was fun and enjoyable for all.
For everyone who has played with the Lego blocks will agree that the first thing they ever made out of the blocks were nothing else but a nice tall tower. The same was the case here.  The bright vibrant colourful Lego blocks brought out colourful smiles and creative ideas out of everyone.
The whole idea of this festival was to trigger the thinking processes in kids with creativity. They had to draw inspiration from all the things they had seen around them, read in books, maybe watched on television, heard to people talk and simply imagined.
The purpose of this Lego Habba was to teach the children some important traits like team spirit and leadership skills in a lucid manner that they understood the significance and importance of these terms. This was also an excellent medium to ensure student-teacher interaction.
The Habba was conducted on every Saturday in November and December 2012.  The first 15 minutes were allotted to creating a story. The teachers along with the students had to create a story and create characters and themes for the same. Once this was done 45 minutes were allotted to form the story setup using the Lego blocks. Once this was done, the remaining 30 minutes were given to them to exhibit their creations and talk about it.
Lego Habba  would not have been successful without volunteers. A number of corporate came forward with their employees who happily volunteered. A big thanks to companies like Robert Bosch, CGI, Fidelity Information Systems, Inventure Academy, Hibu and iGATE for their help and volunteering. This programme would not have been possible without the help of the school teachers and the school authorities.

This was one of those events which had put a smile of just about everyone’s faces. With positive reviews and comments from everyone it was obvious that this effort had been worthwhile and the event a major success. What made this event stand apart from other activities was the fact that it involved the whole community. This wasn’t just a thing for the school children but an opportunity for the entire community to get together and celebrate creativity.
Kudos to the Library team for all their efforts in making this event a grand success! 

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.