The growth has been phenomenal…with fewer than 15 schools involved at the time of its inception 7 years ago, Sikshana has today reached out to 400 schools and over 35000 children. But the journey forward only looks more promising. Sikshana now aims to extend its reach to 100, 000 students in two years by initiating more growth centers around the country. So, how can this ambitious target be achieved? What really makes Sikshana sustainable? Will other NGOs join hands for a united cause and profit from each other’s resources? As the four day convention and workshop hosted by Sikshana, and attended by 21 other organizations ended, a plethora of questions and possibilities were thrown open.
Sikshana’s model which is primarily motivational, and facilitating is one that can be a learning model to other like-minded players in the field of education. To discuss this end, Vibha supported Sikshana in coordinating a 4 day workshop from 8th through 11th of July, 2010 in the outskirts of Southern Bangalore and funded 50% of the cost. The organizations invited to this workshop included those with previous or present experience in working with government schools, organizations having a network with the government, financially strong organizations and few research organizations involved in research on public education system in India.
The workshop started with a welcome speech by Mr. Ramamurthy, followed by a briefing from Mr. Prasanna on the workshop’s agenda and answering general questions. This opened a great platform for all participants to interact with each other, sharing ideas and experiences.
Role of Philanthropy in Education
The second day started with a presentation on the “Role of Philanthropy in Education” by Mr.Ramamurthy. During this presentation, he asserted how the voluntary sector should be more into venture philanthropy where every new step should reach out to a larger section of people. Focused efforts, optimal funding and quantified results form the cornerstone of an improved public education system. He voiced his view on how a physical audit is a better measure than a financial one, and the need to cut down expenditure on “feel-good” factors like compound walls.
Sikshana’s model evolved on the conscious feeling of building on the strength of the government schools and doing only things that the government cannot. The infrastructural needs of the school, for instance will be taken care of by the state., while motivational factors like adequate stationary, lanterns at home, etc. will be provided by Sikshana. Currently Sikshana is trying to explore Panchayati Raj Institution Act as a tool to bring about decentralization and empowerment.
What Sikshana is and What Sikshana is not…
The post lunch session headed by Prasanna invited a lot of questions and doubts as participating organizations were generally doing the opposite of Sikshana. Mr. Ramamurthy maintained the importance of a child-centric approach over a system-centric approach, and his theory of “motivated child- dedicated teacher” in a successful education program. The discussion on Sikshana capitalizing on a provision of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan( SSA) further led to a discussion on the public education system. Mr. Ramamurthy asserted that instead of being judgmental on the public education system, one can consider opportunities around all the pitfalls of the same system. To counter the audience’s negative response, he shared his own experience in dealing with the Karnataka government and opined that bottom-up approach was essential in creating a healthy environment with the government, starting at the Taluka level moving up to the district and state levels.
Three headmasters of government schools were present and spoke about their experiences with Sikshana and answered convincingly to all questions posed by participants. The participants were also impressed by the effective usage of technology in all Sikshana supported schools.
A Visit to the Schools:
The third day began with three separate groups touring the nearby Sikshana supported schools. Although direct implementation of computers and libraries could not be demonstrated at the particular time, the children responded well to questions and demonstrated excellent reading abilities leaving a favorable impression on the visitors. The account books maintained on the expenditure of Sikshana money were thorough and faultless.
Concerns and Issues
The post lunch session involved a feedback session which included questions from participants not only on the Sikshana model but also on the feasibility of its replication in other states.
- As some participants opposed that they neither possessed the network nor the resources of Sikshana, Mr. Ramamurthy stressed that it is necessary to build a network first to obtain sponsors, and there are a lot of sponsors willing to support such projects.
- Some contested that not all states are willing to partner with NGOs like Karnataka, to which Prasanna responded that on GORD’s willingness to replicate in AP, Mr. Ramamurthy studied the SSA state in AP and helped in getting official MoU with AP. He will do so with other states as well. Of course, they did not have an answer for Tamil Nadu where the government recently banned all NGOs from public schools.
- To concerns that funding agencies do not approve government involved projects, Mr. Ramamurthy retorted that one has to run projects according to the needs of the country, and not according to the interests of funding agencies, and his experience had thought him that there are agencies willing to look at his project closely as well.
- Sikshana still needs to fine tune its exit strategy from schools after they reach a level of sustainability.
Opinions from Participants:
These were a product of the final day individual and group feedback sessions.
- Mr. Giridhar from Akshaya Patra Foundation gave a very inspiring talk and he too stressed that in spite of all pitfalls, we just cannot have the kind of strength the government has, and hence we need to capitalize on that strength.
- Mr. Arvind from Akshara Foundation, who is in charge of the library program being implemented in Karnataka government schools shared his experience on how the language abilities of children got improved and its ripple effect enhances their abilities in other subjects too, thus leading to their retention in schools. He too supported Mr. Giridhar’s opinion that they could scale up the program only because of government support.
- There were others from organizations like AID India who felt that one needs Sikshana kind of connections and resources to make this sort of model workable and scalable.
- Mr. Gode, a block education officer shared his achievements in schools because of Sikshana’s intervention.
On the whole, the message and vision of Sikshana was successfully shared with the invited NGOs. There were some unanswered questions owing to shortage of time, however Sikshana workers made sure the information was mailed out to the participants. Apart from GORD, Gram Vikas Trust (GVT) has already started a dialogue with Prasanna on these lines. GVT plans to initially implement this model in 15 schools with 80% of the funds from Vibha and 10% each from Sikshana and GVT. We hope that with further involvement of other NGOs, their ambitious goals may be achieved.
To read more about Sikshana, visit
1. Vibha Blog