“The difference between school and life?
In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
– Tom Bodett

Education and literacy can never be stressed enough! Many policies come, but the impact generated gets lost somewhere between the layers. The education that India requires needs to go a mile further to bring benefits to grassroots. Population, poverty and lack of awareness have created a huge hindrance in realizing literacy on the ground. What we need is innovation, optimization of technology and practicality in education. Often, we have read about parents not sending their kids to school in villages, preferring they do other works to ease off the financial load on the family. It obviously makes sense that someone won’t prefer to study Shakespearean sonnets when what they want to do is farming. The idea of education needs to result in empowerment. Literacy asks for flexibility in order to be realized in a populous nation like India.

Literacy India, a non-profit organization tackling this issue, ventures in the direction of flexible education down to the core. It stands for 3Es, viz. Education, Empowerment and Employment. It aims to give education a better and different meaning, wherein it becomes the catalyst of self-reliance, self-employment and self-empowerment. Thereby it strives to bring about a positive change in the lives of children and women lacking facilitation, and society as a whole.

Capt. Indraani Singh working on HELF for Education

Nourishing the roots

Started in 1996 by Capt. Indrani Singh, Literacy India is instilling dignity of needy and downtrodden children through education. Literacy India is a core team of 19 people, along with 200-500 employees. They are using creative outlets for delivering flexible and better education. They are imparting basic education using vocational skills like computer coding, animation and performing arts, etc. thereby engaging kids in studies followed by their interests. Literacy India wants to make children confident and empowered to take on the challenges of society & life. By providing a better socio-cultural environment, they aim to facilitate kids for a better future. While talking to ulaunch, Capt. Indrani mentioned how the organization took a big turn in 2009. They were volunteering at a theatre which started a program to help uplift the street-dwelling kids in Mumbai. These children were beggars, runaways or exposed to drug peddling and human trafficking. The volunteers cleaned them up, provided them with food, but they’d eventually end up on streets. Volunteers considered teaching them but they never showed interest. It was difficult to establish conversations, the only thing that had their attention was the glamour of films. So, volunteers started to engage them with theatre performances and innovative methods of teaching. This resulted in an improvement in children’s behaviour. Literacy India adopted this improved method. Along with vocational skills, they taught kids foundational English, Hindi and numeracy. Literacy India believes in growing together, thus they’ve opened their subject materials to anyone in need.

Literacy India empowering children with Information Communication and Technology

The big impact

Literacy India is based in Gurugram, Haryana but they’ve reached out to kids all across the country.  With initiatives like Vidyapeeth, Dost, Pathshala, Shiksharth and Gurukul, they’ve created a huge impact in the lives of underprivileged children and women from Andhra Pradesh, Ladakh, Bangalore, Delhi, Maharashtra and Gurgaon.

In their own words,
“The idea is to equip underprivileged children & women with basic education and also identify, nurture and develop their latent talent & skills, wherein empowering them and increasing their employability quotient”.  

With this mindset, they have brought about a qualitative change via 55 centres in about 10 states. They’ve reached more than 50,000 beneficiaries. Some of these kids have created an app called Toco, which has a compilation of animation series regarding the use of toilets and Covid-19 awareness. It is very commendable that the kids who were once underprivileged are uplifting the lives of others now.

Education can certainly go beyond formal studies and Karigari proves it by providing vocational training in the areas based on the beneficiaries’ preferences and aptitude.

Capt. Indrani Singh told ulaunch that population is one big concern in achieving the 3Es in India. Also, the people not wanting to take up responsibilities is an issue. Empathy is crucial to be able to bear responsibilities.

Leading way forward

The beneficiaries of the NGO are aware of their health and sanitation, their voting rights and importance of education, on this day. If we trace the trajectory, it’s clearly visible how far they’ve come. Literacy India has done a big job in breaking these underprivileged kids and women free of the stigmatized situations. They’ve inculcated courage, confidence and honour in their lives. Indha Crafts, the sister organization of Literacy India is alongside bringing empowerment to women through skill development and employment. They’re leaving no stone unturned by their determination and service for an uplifted society.

Literacy India is surely proving the truth in the words of John Dewey,
‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.’

Article by Prachi Chauhan, Team ulaunch.

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