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ASHA: minutes of asha annual meeting 1999 (fwd)

Lengthy but informative..  Try to read when possible.  -Subbu.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999 11:02:44 +0530 (IST)
From: Asha <>
Subject: minutes of asha annual meeting 1999

Hi all: included below are the minutes of the recently concluded Asha's
annual meeting in Lucknow. 'Q' stands for questions asked, 'A' stands for
answers given, and 'S' for suggestion from participants.



In the morning session, Sandeep explained to various groups how to
maintain accounts, how to apply for FCRA clearance, FCRA prior permission
, etc.

Introduction by Sandeep:
Asha started in 1991 in UC Berkeley with the objective of contributing to
education of poor children in India. It was also registered in India after
that. Initially we were not so active. But over last few years we have
been active in our experiments in primary education, mainly in UP. There
has been some debate regarding the philosophy of Asha. It seemed that
supporting formal education (eg. Government run education programmes) will
only add to the problems of our society.

Asha is different from many other funding agencies in the sense that it
works in a very informal and loose network. Right from the beginning it
was decided that Asha would have no overhead expenses and all the money
collected would go to the projects in India. It is in true sense a
voluntary work and has not been institutionalized much. Full time
volunteers of Asha in India are trying to become economically self-reliant
themselves. They involve in productive activities and try not to take
financial support from Asha.

The overall effort is towards creating a movement for alternative
education in India.

The purpose of this meeting is to increase the interaction with various
organizations/projects who are being supported by Asha-US chapters and
also other projects who are doing good work in education, share and learn
from every organization's experience, and explore possibilities of working
collaboratively in future.

Self-introduction by every participant:
Ram Pravesh Shastri, Editor, 'Ashram Jeevan', Shri Gandhi Ashram,
Badshahnagar Road, Lucknow; Ph: (0522) 355359 (R), 222938 (O)
Anil Sharma, Asha-Delhi volunteer, 98, Samachar Apt, Mayur Vihar - 1,
Delhi - 110091; Ph: (011) 2713460
Kanta Marathe, Navrachna Samaj Sevi Sanstha, Gram Mohalla, P.O. Dhangawa,
Dist. Jabalpur - 483225, M.P.; Ph: (07624) 68213
Asha Pandey, Rishi Pragatisheel Shikshad Sansthan, Little Stars School,
B-1/111, Arusi, Varanasi - 221005, U.P.; Ph: (0542) 314226
Suresh Mhaske, Phulenagar Project, M.J. Phulenagar, Near IIT Market,
Powai, Mumbai - 400076; (022) 5796328
Dr. Devendra Kumar, ED, 458, LDA Colony, Kanpur Road, Lucknow; Ph: (0522)
Sandeep, Asha-Lucknow, A-893, Indira Nagar, Lucknow - 226016; Ph: (0522)
347365, Email:
Rupesh, Abhiyan, Ramkrishna Colony, Mahendru, Patna; Ph: (0612) 682874
Chandra Bhushan, Abhiyan, Ramkrishna Colony, mahendru, Patna; Ph: (0612)
Putul Bahen, c/o Rajiv Classes, 83, Halwasia Market, Hazratganj, Lucknow;
Ph: (0522) 218042
Vallabhacharya Pandey, Pragatisheel Madhumakhi Palan Kendra, Village/Post
Kaithi, Varanasi - 221104; Ph: (0542) 618201, 618301
L. Devarajan, Jeevan Gnanodhaya School for the Deaf, C-46, 5th Cross
Street, Annanagar, Chengalpattu - 603001, Tamil Nadu; Ph: (04114) 28708
Sanjay K. Rai, Asha-Lucknow volunteer, A-8, Sarvoday Nagar, Indira Nagar,
Lucknow - 226016; Ph: (0522) 387509
Madan Sharma, Urmul Marusthali Bunkar Vikas Samiti, Falaudi, Dist.
Jodhpur, Rajasthan; Ph: (02925) 2227
Girja Shankar Pandey, Village/Post - Malkera, Dist. Dhanbad - 828304,
Bihar; Ph: (0326) 713394
Nandlal Prasad, Nav Jyoti Swavlamban Sewa Sansthan, Village Nagepur, Post
- Benipur, Varanasi - 221307; Ph: (0542) 632433
B. C. Sharma, Gandhian Institute of Rural Development (GIRD), Manipur,
H.O. Thoubal Achouba, M.I. Road, Hotel Kongbra, Thoubal - 795138; Ph:
(03848) 22641
Rakesh Narayan, Prerna Niketan, K. Toli, Matwari, Hazaribag - 825301,
Bihar; Ph: (06546) 25736
Brajeshwar Prasad Mishra, Singhbhum Legal Aid and Development Society
(SLADS), Laldih, Ghutsila, Dist. Singhbhum (E); Ph: (06585) 25743
Harish Bhatt, Kokila Vikas Ashram, Post - Sonapur - 784168, Assam; Ph:
(0361) 522344, (03715) 43187
Ajit Singh, Guria, S-8/395, Khejuri Colony, Varanasi - 2, U.P.; Ph: (0542)
Chandrashekhar Singh Gaur, Manviya Prabandhan Sansthan, G. T. Road,
Naramau, Mandhana, Kanpur - 209217; Ph: (0512) 770408, 770026
Shobha Bahen, Parvatiya Paryavaran Sanrakshan Samiti, Himdarshan Kutir,
Post - Gharmaghar, Dist. Pithoragarh -  
Deepak Gupta, Asha-Kanpur, 3062, IIT, Kanpur - 208016; Ph: (0512) 5228520,
Sudhir Pandey, C/141/291, Humayunpur (south), Gorakhpur - 273001; Ph:
T. N. Agrawal, Manviya Prabandhan Sansthan, H.O. 4/276, Parwah Bagla Road,
Kanpur - 208016; Ph: (0512) 544853
Vishambhar Vidyarthi, Upkaram Karoti, 14/3, Tiwarinagar, Motinagar,
Lucknow; Ph: (0522) 691069
Divya Pandey, Upkaram Karoti, 14/3, Tiwarinagar, Motinagar, Lucknow; Ph:
(0522) 461295 (R)
Simantini Dhuru, Avehi-Abacus Project, 3rd Floor, K.K. Marg Municipal
School, Behind Shireen Talkies, Saat-Rasta, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai - 400011;
Ph: (022) 3075231 (O), 3850827 (R), Email:
Lalit Uniyal, Boomiheen Sewa Samiti, 6A, Panna Lal Road, Allahabad -
211002; Ph: (0532) 601548, 605757, Email:
Surabhi Dubey, B-2, Literacy House, Lucknow - 226023, Ph: (0522) 470192
Malay Kumar Dalal, Ankuran, Chatra, Bihar; Ph: (06541) 22361
Chandra Bhushan Tiwari, Vivekanand Gramin Vikas Shodh Sansthan, Salehnagar
Banglabazar, Lucknow; Ph: (0522) 432972
C B Naik, Vasundhara, A/6, Shakun, Shahaji Raje Marg, Vile Parle (E),
Mumbai - 400057, Ph: (022) 8205207, (02362) 22375
Rahul Pandey, Asha-Lucknow volunteer, C-61, IIT, Powai, Mumbai - 400076;
Ph: (022) 5771020, Email:
Shanmuga Subramanyam, Asha-Chennai volunteer, 70, Z Block, Anna Nagar,
Chennai - 600040; Ph: (044) 6264837, Email:
Ram Iqbal Singh, Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GVVS), Jodhpur; Ph: 741317
Mahesh, Asha-Lucknow and Asha-Ballia volunteer, A-893, Indira Nagar,
Lucknow; Ph: (0522) 347365
Bramhanand Mishra, Shiksha Niketan, Village/Post - SonkiMot, Ballia, U.P.;
Ph: (05496) 32067
Biju Borboruah, Tamulpur Anehalik Gramdan Sangha, Kumari Kata, Dist.
Nalbari, Assam; Ph: (0361) 522344
Sheetal Sharma, Asha-Lucknow volunteer, Lucknow; Ph: (0522) 410582

Presentations by Project Representatives:
Malay Kumar Dalal:
(Organization: Ankuran; Being supported by Asha since August 1999)
Ankuran works in health, education, women's development in villages in
district Chatra, Bihar. Give training (incense stick making, sewing,
greeting cards, mushrooms, sericulture, etc) to women. Most women are
uneducated. We also provide them education and awareness.  We run 6
non-formal education centers with children, supported by Asha. This was
started from August 1999. Children are between 6-14 years, mostly
harijans. We will educate the kids till 5th std and then help them in
getting admission to regular schools.  We are thinking of modifying our
curriculum so that the kids' education becomes value focussed and there is
a greater impact on the children.

We give residential training to girls (of 17-25 years) for 6-months. We
provide raw material and charge no fee. Afterwards we help them with loans
for initial investment required for starting their own activities. This
programme has been partially successful.

Q: Is the education only non-formal?
A: Yes. 

Q: What about difficulty in getting older children to class 5th:
A: Yes, we face some difficulty.

Q: What about overall development of kids?
A: We interact with parents. We also have a nutrition programme. Kids
there are undernourished.

Q: How do you fund?
A: From local as well as foreign funds. We also do some agriculture.

Q: How about involvement of local people? How is your program different
from governmental programme?
A: Our education programme is customized to local people's work routine.
It is not very different from governmental program except that we also
have nutrition programme. Teacher-kids interaction is good. Teachers get
Rs. 200 p.m.

Q: What about sustenance after six months? Will the teachers require more
funds after that for the new batch of kids?
A: Yes.
Asha Pandey:
(Organization: Little Star School; Being funded by Asha since 1996)
Little Star school started in 1996 (Rishi Pragatisheel Shiksha Sansthan),
with 13 kids. Most kids were beggars. Now there are 200 kids and 8
teachers. It is up to class 4th. I do not agree with Balwadi/Anganwadi
concept because it is not regular/systematic. I will teach the kids up to
std. 8th, and will try for sponsorship after that. Nothing has been done
for vocational training, mainly because of lack of space. Though I believe
that kids should be trained in useful skills like mechanic etc. I plan to
take this up in future. Right now I have 6 class rooms and the space is
not sufficient for starting vocational activities. Salary of teachers is
about Rs. 700 p.m.

Q: In a 6-room space you can definitely get some space for starting skill
A: I am thinking of starting typing and carpentry training. But it is all
a dream right now.

Q: How do you get hold of beggar kids?
A: I seek help of volunteers who go to the ghats in Varanasi and look out
for beggar kids.

Q: How do you ensure regular attendance of beggar kids?
A: I pursue them regularly. Attendance is about 80%. I have to regularly
send volunteers to get them every day to the class.

Q: Are all kids beggars?
A: No. Some are children of lepers. Some are kids of Bangladesh refugees.
All are street children. About 40 are beggars.

Q: What about support from local organizations/people?
A: I have not got much support locally. Once I exhibited some jams made by
kids on the ghats, but got adverse comments from local people that I am
trying to gain commercial mileage, so I got discouraged and discontinued.

Q: Your work is very good. There is definite impact on kids. But
dependence on outside support forever is not healthy. Right now there is
no effort to become self-reliant, or even involve support of local people.
A: Yes, I agree with this.

Q: Do you discourage the kids against begging?
A: We try to discourage kids, but not much success so far. There is no
alternative so far.

Q: One alternative could be that you start some economic activity like
growing flower pots in your school and sell them and pass on the earnings
to kids. Also, pursue with parents of beggar kids.
A: I have talked to parents but they lie about their children's begging.

Q: Last year when we visited your school there was some talk about
starting economic activities. Has anything been done so far?
A: No, but we will begin in this direction.

S: You should begin some production activity and devise innovative
marketing like door-to-door campaigning.
Rakesh Narayan:
(Organization: Prerna Niketan; Has applied to Asha for support)
We work with women in 2 blocks of Bihar. One block is dominated by
Naxalites. There are no government or any other schools. We run schools in
17 villages. Guardians of children also give financial support from which
teachers are supported. Local contribution is very high. Liquor and crime
are rampant in that area. Our objective is literacy so that they become
more aware about their rights, and ills of liquor/crime. That area has
tradition of snake charming, and making chairs from trees/canes. We are
thinking of training them in similar skills like china mud utensils. We
also work in child labour, with support from CRY. We have got space from a
local businessman. 243 children are covered under the child labour
programme. We collected huge money in a cultural programme of children,
locally. We organized a football match of 2 villages. We are thinking of
starting economic programmes with kids like making leaves-plate, pottery.

Q: It seems your organization has huge resources.
A: No we don't have huge funds. We get some revolving funds from local

Q: What is the your and your co-workers' background?
A: I am a graduate. My colleagues are all social workers. Other volunteers
are selected locally. All are financially supported. I am a project

Q: What is the nature of local support?
A: We hold meetings with local parents, and insist that they provide
support for some materials like books, etc. CRY's support is for slates,
raw material for greeting cards, etc. CASA provides some support.

Q: What is CASA's project?
A: CASA's project involves integrated development work in that area.

Q: How do you convince children to leave criminal activities, particularly
when some of their parents or relatives would be naxalites?
A: We discuss these issues with them.

Q: Does your organization not get threat calls?
A: No, because we get support from local villagers.

Q: How did you know about ASHA?
A: We had heard about Asha's education programmes. The villages that were
not covered by CASA - for them we have applied to Asha to run schools for
Brajeshwar Prasad Mishra:
(Organization: Singhbhum Legal Aid and Development Society (SLADS); Being
supported from Asha since 1997)
We run high schools, middle schools and primary schools in interior areas
of Ghatshila, Bihar where there are no schools. We are getting support
from Asha for last 2 years. This has helped improve conditions of these
schools. No. of children has increased with Asha's support. Besides
regular syllabus our programme includes discussion on local issues and
environment (eg. Gardening). Our programme is not successful in the sense
that we are not able to involve all the children of the local areas. We
realize that the present syllabus and curriculum is not suitable because
it does not generate interest in kids. They do not relate to local issues.
We are facing a lot of problems on these aspects. We need inputs on these.

Q: You said that parents of kids are not interested. Another problem is
with the curriculum. What alternatives have you thought of?
A: We have formed a teachers-parents association. We contact the parents
of kids who do not come to classes. We are still in the thinking phase,
nothing concrete has emerged. Once we thought of coming up with our own
books, but that process was very tedious and long. We are now thinking of
inviting education experts to our villages. We will change the medium
first to their local dialect, and slowly shift to Hindi.

Q: Do you have any programme for the parents of the kids?
A: We are working for only 2 years on the education programmes. That is
why I talked of the problems that we are facing. It will take time to
reach to the parents.

Sanjay Rai's comment:  There is no link of what you have said with what I
had observed when I visited your organization about 3-4 months back. There
doesn't seem to be any thinking in the direction of self-reliance.
L. Devarajan:
(Organization: Jeevan Gnanodhaya School for the Deaf; Getting support from
Asha since August, 1999)
Our school caters to the need of the rural children with hearing
impairment. I was sensitised to the problems of deaf when my own son was
born deaf & dumb ten years ago. I started Jeevan Gnanodhaya School for the
Deaf in October, 1989 in Chengalpattu (Tamil Nadu) with one teacher just 5
deaf children having rural background. I was determined to provide shelter
and education for as many deaf children from villages as possible. At
present the school has 100 deaf children and 20 mentally retarded
children. Children with hearing impairment are taken in after medical
check-up and are given hearing-aids and speech therapy. The school runs
from Pre-KG to IX std as per the Tamil Nadu Government's syllabus. It is
completely residential. We charge no fees. We have 9 teachers and 5 hostel
wardens. This year we have been able to get government recognition for our
school. However we do not get any government aid.

For purchasing hearing-aid kits and providing food, clothes, medical
facilities and teachers salaries, etc we donations from various
organizations and people of Tamil Nadu. Every month we require Rs. 70000.
Apart from regular education we also provide our children vocational
training in tailoring, weaving, typing. Mor. Grorge Vergeese, on behalf of
Asha, visited our school in June, 1999. Thanks to him, we are getting
support from Asha since last 6 months for our teachers' salaries. Recently
Asha has also come forward to help us in imparting vocational training to
our students. With the help of Asha we have planned to open a Industrial
Training Institute Centre which will run as a wing of our school. We will
start with the Fitter trade training.
Nandlal Prasad:
(Organization: Nav Jyoti Swavlamban Sewa Sansthan; Has recently submitted
a proposal to Asha)
We work in some villages near Varanasi with the saree-making community.
Our main work is to organize the saree-makers and create social awareness
among them. We also run 10 centers including 500 children of saree-making
families. There are 30 teachers. Schools run in evening because children
work for saree-making in the day. We started a center in 1994 that
attracted local kids. Villagers of other villages began demanding similar
centers in their areas. We do not take any outside funds. Everything is
from local support. We have thought a lot about what is the right
education for these kids. Our focus is on imparting 'samajikta' (social
values). We have started a savings scheme. Some kids have used this to
invest in saree-making activities. We have constructed a library with help
from villagers. Our main programme is social change. We would like to
impact government's programmes. We are increasing the involvement of local
rural people in our activities. E.g. We involved local people and
collected contributions as cash and grains for Orissa relief. We want to
start a center where children from outside areas (other than local
villages) can also come.

Sandeep's comment: Nandlal is himself a Bunkar (Saree-maker), and after
his MA he returned to his village to start education programme for
children of his villagers, who do saree-weaving during the day. This is a
very commendable programme. It is not dependent on outside aid. He has
even involved young boys for teaching whose age at some centers is less
than the students. Some funding organizations have tried to approach him
but he has not got in their trap. His involvement with Asha is mainly on
ideological interaction. We wanted to help him to provide solar lanterns,
but he refused. Instead, he has asked for help in the area of 'public
communication systems' to help in spreading awareness about social issues
in his villages.

Mahesh's comment: Ordinary workers of this center are involved in every
decision making, including how funds should be used and for what purpose.

Nandlal: We work in a democratic fashion. Until recently we did not even
have a name for our organization. Our thrust is to involve local people,
and work toward overall development of the saree-making children.
C. B. Naik:
(Organization: Vasundhara; Getting support from Asha since July/August,
I along with my brothers and parents used to live in one room 'chawl'
during my childhood. In 1978 I came in contact with Baba Amta. I would
work with him and in his 'lepers' center whenever I got time off from my
work. In 1984, I left my job (as Deputy Bank Manager in a bank) and
settled in Konkan. I surveyed Sindudurg district. There were 130 schools
but none had science facilities/lab. I left Bombay and used my savings in
settling in the Konkan village. My wife took care of my kids' marriage.
Bank of India helped me with loan to purchase a van. I started 'Science on
Wheels'. I was financially constrained. Nana Patekar helped me with
repaying loans. Last year we covered 130 schools (8000 children). Everyday
we cover one school, traveling about 100 kms sometimes. Every school is
visited twice a year by our 'science' van.

Monthly expenses of my activities are Rs. 25000. A lot of contribution is
received from local people. I contacted Asha and have recently got funds.
Our work is against superstition and to inculcate scientific temper. Since
we cannot go to a school for more than twice a year, we send them posters
every month. We receive many questions from children about science. We
arrange 'teacher guidance' programme also. We have adopted 3 children for
a 2-years programme. Last year 9 students from our villages were selected
in the 'National Talent Search Exam', out of whom 6 have been selected for
the final interview. We also run 'Bal Durbar' - personality development
programme (of plays, cultural activities) for 25 children. Our friends in
hospitals  come to hold health camps in our villages. We help children to
get treated in Tata Mamorial Hospital for Cancer etc. We are financially
constrained. I get funds solely from individuals. Vigyan Parishad of
Bombay helps me with ideas.

Our future plan is to set up a Science Center in a village. We have got
partial support from Asha. This center will have labs in Science, along
with audio-visual equipment.
Simantini Dhuru:
(Organization: Avehi-Abacus; Has recently got support from Asha)
Avehi started with the concern that people from various strata of society
should sensitise themselves with social issues. The impact of popular
communications media on children is adverse. We wanted that people should
be aware of the impact of such media on themselves. Project Abacus of
Avehi involves poor children of Bombay who either do not study or study in
Municipal Schools. This also includes children of prostitutes in Bombay.
We are working for about 9 years. We have prepared a complete curriculum.
The idea is to relate what is taught in schools with the local context and
life. We have developed an alternative curriculum that covers the syllabus
of regular schools but with a different methodology so that the thrust is
on overall personality development of the child. To bring about social
change the formal education system has to change first. So we work with
the formal municipal school system. Our aim is to convince them that our
methodology and curriculum is desirable and should be adopted. We work
with stds. 3 to 7 of some Municipal schools. We provide training and
teaching material to the teachers. Then those teachers use our methodology
for one hour in a week's teaching schedule. Formal science focuses on the
man's narrow perspective. E.g. the history courses begin with the 'Pashad
Yug' when man was already existing. There is no link with the rest of the
environment/nature. Our mind is subtly conditioned by the narrow confines
of the present formal curriculum. We need to question each and every
minute manifestation of this conditioning. We include all this awareness
in our curriculum. For instance, the present government syllabus does not
include sufficient discussion and information on the caste system. The
first batch (now in 7th) with whom we started 5 years ago will complete in
April 2000. We will be able to see the effects of our efforts after that.
We have realized that even 'teacher empowerment' is important. So we have
started working with some teachers. 

We start with an introductory game called 'market game', where children
play consumers. After the game we ask the children what all did they buy
and how much money they had. Most children say they had not thought about
the constraint on money. This game is used to explain concepts of
'constrained resources', 'priorities of consumption', 'priority of needs',
'equanimity of basic needs'. Second phase is to explain 'history of earth
and its physiological processes', 'insignificance of man', 'life cycle',
'dependence links in nature'. Next area is 'production processes and
change'. Other areas include 'religion processes', 'meaning of development
and progress', etc. We also use examples from today's social movements
like NBA, 'right to information'. The overall objective is to develop in
kids a sensitivity toward society and nature. The entire curriculum is of
5 years.

Q: How can grassroot workers working with children in remote/rural/tribal
areas use your work?
A: We give training to various groups to discuss what changes have to be
made to customize our curriculum. We are willing to sit and work with
interested groups to modify our curriculum to their context.
Suresh Mhaske:
(Organization: Hari Sundar Project/Phulenagar Project; Getting support
from Asha since July/August, 1999)
Phule Nagar is a slum community in Bombay, 25 years old, comprising people
from Maharashtra, UP and the South. It was created as a result of
migration due to 1974 drought. Most children go to BMC schools, but the
education standard there is poor. After 7th std the option is private
school where most children fail. So there is also a problem of drop-out
children. We had started by teaching Math and English to the children. We
conducted a sample survey of about 200 households of the slum (of 2000
families), with help from IIT students to assess what the parents wanted
for their children. Parents wanted their children to learn sewing,
carpentry and typing. We got support from Asha-DC about 5-6 months back.
We have started with providing tutorial help to the kids, and sewing
classes for girls/women. Our programme is very new and we are facing lots
of problems. Many women are illiterate so cannot come for the sewing
classes. Some girls are not regular because their parents are worried
about their marriage. Then there is coordination problem with the IIT
students (who volunteer for teaching the kids). Only 50-60 kids out of
registered 120 attend the tutorial classes. Recently we held a meeting
with post-graduate students and have got commitments from about 10
students. There is problem with monitoring the progress the kids.

We have planned to become completely self-reliant after 3 years. We will
soon start income generation programme with the first batch of sewing
students. We will help them with marketing their products in the slum
itself and also in surrounding residential areas. We have in mind products
like petticoat, curtains, cloth bags. Presently, we are also trying to
organize ragpicker women, domestic workers, etc into groups (Sangathan).
We regularly hold meetings with various such women groups. We are also
taking up problems of credit. We are planning to start savings scheme for

Q: How will you ensure loan repayment in the credit scheme that you are
thinking of starting?
A: Women's group itself will decide the norms and monitoring mechanisms.

Q: What is the relation between Mahila Sangathan work and Asha's education
A: Yes, I agree that at present there is very little in common between the
two. But we cannot leave the development/sangthan problems because all
issues are linked.  But we need to strike the right balance.

Suggestions from a few participants: Exclude the IIT/NSS students from
this programme because they are not connected with the slum's local
issues. Link the children's education programme with the slum's
development issues. Right now the programme is delinked from such issues.
For this, it will make more sense to start a non-formal educational
programme in the slum itself, with help from the slum youth.
Chandra Bhushan:
(Organization: Abhiyan; Getting support from Asha since August, 1999)
We are involved working on Caste, Right to Information, etc issues in
Bihar. Since we were involved in Sangharsh Vahini so we were connected to
villages. We realized that % literacy among those villages was very low.
Villagers are always fearful. We tried to experiment at one place in
Bhaisama village. The school is in a bad shape. Teachers have caste
feelings and do not go to teach because many children are from lower
caste. We have started a school with 60 children (age: 6-14 years). Normal
attendance is 40 kids. The fact that some kids are even coming to the
school is a good progress. It's a recent experiment. We want to keep our
focus on self-reliance. We want to provide training to children in
art/artisan work, screen printing, and cycle repair, diesel/mechanic. We
have been running a Sewing center for training girls. In future we will
also train boys in sewing. One of our associates will soon start screen
printing. We have also started Chyawanprash making with teachers, whose
training was imparted by Mahesh of Asha-Lucknow. But this activity is
still to be streamlined. We also have loud speaker training in mind. We
are preparing a text book covering interesting games for learning and
information on local history etc. 

Q (Mahesh):  About 20 children of your school go to a regular school.
After meeting the 2 teachers I realized that their understanding is not
sufficient to inculcate feelings of self-reliance etc. Why are your
organizations' regular workers, who have a perspective, not involved in
the teaching programme?
A: Yes, but our effort is recent. Self-reliance is a totally new concept
in our village.

Q: Teaching diesel engine/mechanic work will be difficult for the low
class kids. Maybe cycle work is more suitable?
A: We want to at least expose them to such options.

Q: How is this Center different for earlier centers of your organization?
A: This Center involves self-reliance as a unique concept. But it is still
to be implemented.

Mahesh's comments: I had visited this organization. I realize that what
was promised to us about organization's workers' involvement in teaching
and starting self-reliance activities, have still not been taken up.
B. C. Sharma:
(Organization: Gandhian Institute of Rural Development; Has applied for
support to Asha)
We work in Manipur on the basis of Gandhi/Vinoba's ideas. We had tough
time explaining people about the programme that we wanted to start. We got
support of Vanvasi Sewa Ashram, and started 3 centers in 3 villages - both
formal and non-formal. We have a agriculture farm, weaving, horticulture
farm, nursery where we train people and also produce in the Centres. We
have not taken outside support. We got support from local people,
including land. We are also running adult school, and night school for
weavers, and a mobile library. 
We cover about 35 children in each of the 3 schools. Schools are from 1st
to 5th std. We get some financial support from Vanvasi Sewa Ashram.
Harish Bhatt:
(Organization: Kokila Vikas Ashram; Has recently got support from Asha)
KVA started after a massive massacre during election riots in Assam. We
thought of helping the riot victims. 30 volunteers from Gujarat, including
myself, offered to work in Assam. We distributed improved looms there. KVA
was formed in 1985 with the objective of generating awareness among Bodo
tribals. Another riot followed in 1989. Both the riots were communal. As a
result local people have developed an extremist mindset. From 1983 to 1992
our team (except me all others are local) worked in forming more than 100
self-help groups. Today some of these groups have few lacks of rupees in
savings. For income generation we started sewing/weaving for girls of
parents who had mortgaged their properties. Through this activity some
girls have been able to free their parents of these burden. Right now we
are working on the concept of self-reliant villages. We are planning to
get involved in education. We will help children to meet their financial
needs by training them in some production activities like candle-making.

Deepak's comment: Most groups talk about making only a handful of products
- candles, incense sticks etc probably because these are low skill
products. There is a need to also look into option of making other useful
products that might be technologically more complex keeping in mind local
resources and needs. Inputs from modern technology will be useful here.
Madan Sharma:
(Organization: Urmul Marusthali Bunkar Vikas Samiti; Has submitted a
preliminary proposal to Asha)
In 1986 Sanjay Ghosh started work in 5 villages in Rajasthan, in weaving
of wool. 5 people were selected to form a core team, and were trained in
weaving skills. In 1989 those 5 people went to Faloudi to start their work
with Rs. 10000 of raw material, and made good profit. After that the
organization was registered as Urmul. Urmul works with weavers. It also
took up other problems of weavers. In 1992 weavers demanded that an
education programme be started for their daughters. In 1992 we got help
from the government's education dept. Urmul visited different villages to
organize education programes, and got 14 girls schools opened in 14
villages, in form of Anganwadi. In 1994 Urmul adopted 15 regular boys
schools in 15 villages, since their condition was also bad. In 1994 'Lok
Jumbish' was born, involving three regions in Rajasthan. First we survey
the villages and assess the education needs. Then we select 'prerak dal'
(motivation groups) in each village. These groups are formed from local
people. These people are made aware about education rights, and are
encouraged to start schools in their areas. Right now we are covering 4000
children. Teachers get salaries (about Rs. 1300-1800 p.m.). Teaching
material is provided free by the government. Children are charged no fee.
Right now we are focusing on perspective development of kids, and are not
stressing on self-reliance. We are also running 'night schools' for
children who weave during the day. We are facing some problems with
regular attendance of kids at Primary school level. We are also involved
in women's development issues. There are 120 women groups. We are running
savings scheme for women, managed by women groups themselves. We are
trying to develop local groups that can take up their area's development
programmes including education. Ultimately we would like to withdraw from
these areas as these local groups will become self sustaining.

Q: What is the impact on the children who have gone through your education
A: There is lot of impact. Our education programme is 8 years old.
People's mindset has changed. They are trying to get over the rigid
Bramhanand Mishra:
(Organization: Shiksha Niketan; Received a one-time support from Asha in
1998 for starting science-lab)
In 1982 we started a school in a small village in Dhaturitola, Ballia. We
are running just one school covering kids of a small groups of villages in
Ballia. We had got disillusioned in the aftermath of the JP movement. JP
had laid stress on education but nothing was emerging after the political
movement. So we started a school to take forward his ideas. We have not
progressed much since then. Last year with Sandeep's help we completed the
construction of a science lab. This was the first time we took outside
help. Our school is independent in the true sense. Boys study till std 8,
and girls study till MA. Older girls teach younger kids during the day,
and in the evenings we teach those older girls. So far 5 girls have
completed MA, 350 girls have completed High School. Our school is
registered only till std 5. Beyond that we get our students to write exams
through other schools. We teach in Hindi and English languages. We are not
able to start teaching in the local Bhojpuri language because the parents
are still not prepared for that. We find teaching in Hindi very difficult,
even compared to English. Regular text books are suitable for the city
kids. We could not find books suitable for the rural kids. So we try to
take minimum support of the books. Books were teaching things that were
different from reality. We had also looked at books developed by RSS but
found them undesirable.

When we returned from Germany and started the school in 1982, my wife
started teaching. This was found objectionable by the villagers. Now this
attitude has changed. Our school girls openly play kabaddi etc. This year
after Orissa cyclone the girls themselves decided not to celebrate Diwali
and to collect funds for contribution. They collected Rs. 10000 through a
door-to-door campaigning in neighbouring villages and cities. Students of
different castes interact freely in our school. Now we get support from
parents. Other schools in our areas are envious of us. Our teachers get
Rs. 400 and younger girl teachers get Rs. 250. We now want to start
teaching a south Indian language (preferably Tamil) to the lower std
students in our school. We want a Tamil teacher for this. We are also
going to start teaching Nepali soon. We charge Rs. 15 from girls and Rs.
30 from boys. These fees take care of most expenses. Also, our students
take care of most operational responsibilities in the school premises.

Sandeep's comments: This has been a very good experiment of 16-17 years
done in an area that is very backward. Girls in his school learn not only
regular syllabus but also many other things like cycling etc, in an area
where there is a lot of taboo. 75 girls have completed BA from his school.
Recently Sheetal and Biju from Asha-Lucknow went there and trained some
girl students in cloth printing.

Q: What syllabus do you use?
A: We use regular NCERT syllabus, but we use the syllabus to our
convenience in a very flexible way. Our methodology transcends beyond the

Q: How many dedicated workers have you created so far?
A: You will have to come to our school and see for yourself. Girls who
have graduated from our school and have gone elsewhere must be having good
influence locally.
T. N. Agrawal:
(Organization: Manav Prabandhan Sansthan; Has recently submitted a
proposal to Asha)
For 28 years I taught in various engg colleges. Then I started my own
industry. In 10 years I started 9 factories. Now I have disowned them.
Along with Dr. Bagaria, I started MPS in Kanpur 2 years ago, as a unique
experiment in education. Its objective is to create total personality
development in every human being. Every year we plan to take 20 boys from
rural background. We take students after inter (12th std) and provide them
with a 2-year programme without any recognition from the government. We
don't charge any fees. My idea on complete person is the one whose
prosperity and happiness always increases, who makes others prosperous and
happy, and creates 2-4 similar such people in his/her lifetime. We focus
on 5 aspects in our education programme. The first is self-development -
here children learn all skills that will be useful in their life. Here we
focus on how children become 'sanskarit' - i.e. they learn right values to
make their surroundings prosperous. It comprises health management, home
management, production management.  Students take care of the entire
operational responsibilities in our institute. Students learn Management,
Engineering and Commerce for their self-reliance. There are broadly 13
departments (like Production, Marketing, Accounting, Human Resource
Management, etc) in any organization. We impart training in all of them.
We take students who are intermediate pass. We cover training in all these
departments. I think this process will expand exponentially. The first
batch of complete individuals will be completed in 5 years. After that
these students will create more such institutes. We also have plans to
start health centers. 

Q: What about finances?
A: Our institute's expenses are very low because the entire operations are
managed by our own students. Partially we also earn through some
self-reliant activities. We plan to become fully self-reliant in future.
Shobha Behen:
(Organization: Parvatiya Paryavaran Sanrakshan Samiti; Has recently got
approval of support from Asha)
Pithoragarh is a backward area. Most people are from Bhutia community. We
started in 1976 with working on women's and village development issues.
Women were trapped in orthodoxy and traditions. We started schools for
children. We are running 25 Balwadis. We started small scale cottage
industries like sheep growing, carpets, baskets etc. Now these are running
well and many women have obtained employment. Women are also involved in
movements against liquor. Now we are working for 'gram-swaraj'. We are
creating local groups of women in villages. These groups discuss and take
up issues of basic development like water, health, education. But we are
facing problems because that area has a lot of NGOs that are dependent on
foreign money. The area gets a lot of money and local hill people are
lured by the glamour. We have been threatened many times because of our
campaign against liquor. We run schools where we teach the children
through games. Some of our women teachers have themselves never studied.
Right now I am wondering how to convince village people that they can
achieve self-reliance by living locally and working in small ways. The
attack of commercial forces is too much. Now the awareness about education
and health among women has increased. More than 60-70% girls go to
schools. Along with education we also take up awareness generation among
girls about issues of health. There are 25 balwadis (pre-KG level). These
schools run with support entirely from local people's contribution. People
even contribute grains. In our balwadis children and teachers of different
castes sit and eat together.
Vishwanbhar Vidyarthi:
(Organization: Upkaram Karoti)
In my early year I was attached with the socialist party. I got
disillusioned in late1970s. I tried to start a few programmes but did not
succeed. Right now I am working on 3 programmes - education,
self-reliance, and health. We started these programmes in July 1999. Right
now we have 174 kids, 16 teachers. Children are from 3yrs to 13 years.
Teachers get Rs. 800-1500 p.m. 20 children (who are very poor) are charged
no fees. Other children are charged some fees. There are more girls than
boys. We have been making chyawanprash for about 2 years. 3 such products
are being made. These products provide some earnings. Entire salaries
expenses is covered from the fees. We are trying to start some production
activities in the school like sewing. It will start in 2 years. We also
teach acupressure medicine in the evening. 
Kanta Marathe:
(Organization: Ekta Parishad; Has recently got approval of support from
Ekta Parishad is a people's organization, started in 1990 to work for
landless tribals of Madhya Pradesh. India's 13% tribals are in the MP area
where we are working. Though we are not working directly in education, we
do work on generating awareness among people. Our main effort is fighting
for people's right for their land. We are working in 35 districts of MP.
We have captured more than 100 acres of government land where villagers
engage in cooperative farming. Now we want to start an effort in
education. We want to interact with Asha, with the objective of developing
gram-swaraj in the villages where we are working.
Lalit Unyal:
(Organization: Boomiheen Sewa Samiti; Is getting support from Asha since
August/Sep 1999)
We work in the Banda area. Banda area is still not free from feudal lords.
Feudal lords dominate and exploit people. I started by working for the
landless people. But that work involved a lot of instability. So I decided
to work in education which is more stable. Recently Asha started
supporting me for a project. Today's education institutes have become
politicized and quality of teaching has decayed. With the objective of
freeing education from these problems I am working on my experiments. My
work is mainly for Dalits (lower caste and oppressed people). There are
250 kids, mostly from villages. Half of the children in our school are
Dalits. Rest are from the upper castes. They are studying together.
Education in Std 1 to 5 is non-formal, without any formal syllabus.
However the timing is full-time (for the full day). Music is part of their
education. Children from these classes prepare for the higher stds.
Education in Std 6-8 is formal. Training in 3 skills - sewing, sheet
metal, and bee-keeping is being imparted. Computer exposure is also
provided. We try to expose children to the two major changes of our
society - renaissance and the independence movement. Most of the schools'
functions are managed by the children themselves. Low cost games are also
part of the programme. The idea is to provide complete elementary
education for children that develops their overall personality. 
Chandra Bhushan Tiwari / Dr. Tripathi:
(Organization: Vivekanand Gramin Vikas Shodh Sansthan; Has got two small
one-time grants from Asha this year; Will be shortly submitting a proposal
to Asha for regular support)
I started free education programme in Lucknow for children whose parents
are casual labourers. We collect contribution from individual households
in the local area. 2 such schools are running under trees.  Since it is
difficult to generate interest in such children for the classes, we use
innovative methods (like games, songs) to attract the children. One school
has been shifted to a hall that we got after approaching the local
authority. Most of our time and effort goes into collecting donations from
people for this programme. Therefore we are not able to streamline the
programme properly. We have prepared our own songs/poems which we use to
teach the children. Recently I have realized that a lot of the things that
we were teaching  to the children promoted 'negative' values like
competition and cunning behaviour. So I am in the process of reviewing our
curriculum and methodology. 70% women of one area where we work are
widows, because there husbands drink cheap liquor and many have died. This
year Asha supported us in paying for one teacher's salary and construction
of one toilet for the children.
Ram Iqbal Singh:
(Organization: Gramin Vikas Viyan Samiti; Have not applied for any
funding; Asha will provide ideological support and experiment in one of
their schools)
GVVS was formed in 1983 in western Rajasthan. This region is backward. Our
organization runs education, health and environment programmes. We are
mainly supported by Ministry of HRD. The education programme is for
children of villages who do not go to schools. Our 100 centres cover 3000
children including 1200 girls. In 15 schools we have tried to integrate
education with the local context. In these schools village people support
the teachers. Children are also exposed to games, and some economic
activities like soap making, candle making and sewing, though we don't
force children to take up these activities for their sustenance in future.
Many men are stone/rock mine workers and die by 40-50 years of age due to
diseases of respiration and kidney. We help them in medical treatment and
organise health awareness generation programmes. Our main thrust in
medicines is on ayurved. We also work in water conservation.

Presentations by Individuals:
Ajit Singh:
(Organization: Gudia)
I started working with prostitutes in Varanasi in 1994. We are running
Balwadi for prostitutes' children and some health programmes. Prostitution
system is highly politicized and criminalized. So education alone would
not suffice. We took up the issues with Human Rights Commission, and
organized the women. But we got many threat calls and have slowed down a
bit. We are utilizing their singing/dancing art skills in a constructive
way. Every year a festival is organized in Delhi where prostitutes come
and interact. We also bring out a magazine 'Gudia' (to spread the concerns
of prostitutes) that is a success. We also took up awareness in villages
about political corruption and linked it to the problem of prostitutes. An
entire village in Varanasi is into prostitution. We have adopted that
village recently and have started living in that village, with a view to
take up their issues. We don't take any funds for our cultural programme,
the only support is in form of grains collected from villagers. We collect
earnings from selling greeting cards made by the prostitutes' children.
Gudia is partially supported by CRY. We had once experimented with a new
way of education but were not very successful, due to counter pressures
from vested interests like middlemen. The woman in the brothel is very
much trapped under clutches of middlemen and policemen. Lot of money is
involved in this racket so it is very difficult to fight against it. In
the village we are hoping that we may get more space to work. 
Chandra Shekhar:
(Organization: Manav Prabandhan Sansthan)
I want to present my views on education's objective and meaning. Main
objectives of education are to work toward economic independence and
social change. Everybody has to agree on one common objective of education
and its syllabus, only then we will succeed. There has to be an agreed
syllabus on 'economic independence' and 'social change'. Education has to
be universal in character. In our experiment in MPS Kanpur we have
succeeded in designing a good syllabus but have failed so far in our
experiment with economic independence. We cannot make a studying child
self-reliant because his/her efforts and time are mainly spent in
education. Ultimately the quality of education may suffer if we try to
also stress on children's self-reliance. 
(Organization: Pragatisheel Madhumakhi Palan Kendra)
In 1993 I left my job as Medical Representative and started working on
bee-keeping for my self-reliance. At present I am settled in my own
village and comfortably support my family through my business in producing
honey and some medicinal plants. Asha is planning to develop a training
center for bee-keeping at our premises.

Sandeep's comments: Vallabhacharya's effort is commendable. Though he is
not directly working on education, he has been able to achieve
self-reliance for himself and his family in 2-3 years after starting from
scratch. His bee-keeping and honey-making processes are completely nature
and environment friendly. Under Asha we will identify such individual who
have achieved self-reliance while living in the market system, and develop
real world training centers at their premises. This will be an important
part of Asha's self-reliance programme. Self-reliance is an important part
of Asha's education programme.
Putul Behen:
For many years I was associated with Chatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini's
political activities. I have worked on women's issues. I believe that the
education's role cannot be seen in isolation from the social and political
movements. We have to take a wider view of education so that it can be
seen as a tool to bring about positive social change.
Girija Shankar Pandey:
I don't have any organization. I have been involved in social work for
many years. Initially worked on labourers' issues including their
children's education. I have recently started working in 2 areas in
Dhanbad, Bihar - for developing sensitivity in people who have resources,
and for deprived people. We are experimenting with introducing yoga and
meditation in schools. We don't take funds. My suggestions for Asha: 1)
Include character building along with education, 2) Include meditation in
your programme, 3) There should be a clarity on what products should be
made as part of self-reliance programme.
Sanjay Rai:
(Asha-Lucknow volunteer)
Our challenge is to bring about a movement in education. We need to learn
from other similar efforts in the country and work jointly. We also need
to integrate education with social and political issues. My present work
with Asha is still in training phase. I visit projects supported by Asha.
I also see a role for myself in the Asha center that will soon start in a
nearby village.
Biju Borbarua:
(Organization: Tamulpur Anehalik Gramdan Sangha)
Since 1996 I am working with women in Assam. Most women there do not have
any income source. So our thrust has been on creating self-help groups of
women. These groups save money and also start income generating activities
using this scheme. The women's groups also sit and discuss how to deal
with the problem of terrorism that is building up in Manipur. I want to
start in a separate district, the same operations . We also want to start
schools along with Self-help groups. I want to start a women's cooperative
bank. Women will invest the savings in taking land by mortgage and work on
it to expand their earnings.

Q: How many women ? How many groups ?
A: In my first organization we organized 170 self-help groups. In the
Nolbari district of Bodo tribes we have organized another 50 groups. Each
group has about 15 women.
Sheetal Sharma:
(Asha-Lucknow volunteer)
I am working with Asha-Lucknow for about 8 months. For my self-reliance I
do block/screen printing of cloth. I have visited schools in Reoti and
Dhaturitola in Ballia to impart training in screen printing to
girls/women. I am enjoying this work and plan to continue this in future.

Sandeep's comment: 
Any organization that wants to get its people/workers trained in skills
like screen printing, block printing, chyawanprash making, bee-keeping,
and formation of self-help groups can ask our help. In future we will
organize similar asha meetings by rotation in various places. We will try
to hold future asha meetings at places where actual work in education is
being undertaken.

We want to create a movement in alternative education. The present
education system does not guarantee fulfillment of economic needs for
everyone. It requires very specialized knowledge and skills for people to
succeed, like knowledge of English, understanding of maths and certain
analytical and clerical abilities. Aspiration of people who undergo
through today's education process is to get a clerical job. Today's
education system is also inculcating negative values in kids - like
competition, over-consumption, disregard for nature/environment, disregard
for emotions and family relationships. We want to run an educational
experiment parallel to the existing system with the objective of
developing individuals with positive values and self-reliance
capabilities, and creating gram-swaraj. We are not opposed to the people
working in the present formal system. In fact we are identifying and
involving those individuals from the system who sympathise with us and we
will work with them. We will carry out our experiment with base in a
village near Lucknow where a land of about 6 bigha has been identified. We
are developing our own curriculum in this direction. We are also
interacting with other organizations like Eklavya and Avehi who have
experimented with developing alternative curriculum/methodology. We will
also integrate our work with the other social and political issues.

We are not insisting that projects being supported by Asha should work on
our ideas. Individual projects are free to work in their own ways. Our
effort will be to continue interacting with all projects and learn from
each other's experience. However we would like that projects try to become
self-reliant and not be dependent always on outside aid. We ourselves are
trying to become self-reliant.

Deepak's comment: 
Apart from learning the manufacturing of particular products, we should
also emphasise the management, finance and marketing methods, as was
emphasized by T N Agrawal.

Rupesh's Suggestion: We should be regularly updated on Asha's progress and
ideology. We are sometimes not clear whether Asha is simply a funding
agency or an action group. So we need to be clear about Asha's work and
role. We would like to be benefited from Asha's work.

Girja's suggestion: We should see Asha as a network of people's
organization involved in education movement, rather than as an NGO.

Sandeep: We invite all organizations and people interested in education to
be part of our effort and contribute toward clearly defining education's


On the morning of December 26, Mr. Kamal Taori (Director, UP Government's
dept of rural development, and Chairman, Centre for Development Action)
came over to meet Asha members. Sandeep, Deepak and Shanmuga apprised him
about how Asha works in the US and in India. Mr. Taori suggested that Asha
volunteers should visit the existing educational infrastructure of the
government organizations that are lying either sick or unused, and see how
best they can be utilized for rejuvenating education programmes. He
requested Asha members to provide him consulting in structuring the UP
government's education and rural development organization. He suggested
that we should see education's role as holistic development and promote
entrepreneurship led development with villages as the base. He said that
Villlage Panchayats are likely to cooperate with us in this endeavour. He
expressed his willingness to collaborate with Asha wherever possible.

Sandeep's ideological ideas:
1. Establish a human order on global level.
2. Gram Swaraj: (Education, health, production of subsistence necessary
items, exchange of items, system of justice despension) on village level.
3. Family as a socially functional and economically self-reliant unit.
4. Individual as a knowledgeable, responsible, creative entity.

Sandeep's comment on upcoming Asha Centre:
The original idea of a campus type of Asha Centre has now changed with a
land in donation becoming available in a village about 60 km from Lucknow
in the neighbouring Hardoi district. Now it'll be a village based
community organization work. We are quite fortunate to have received the
land in donation form Dr. Devendra Tripathi, an ayurvedic doctor based in
Lucknow. As a result of this we'll be able to spend the WAH money for the
purchase of land in infrastructure creation and starting other activities.
The new conception of asha-ashram in detail is being posted elsewhere.

Shanmuga's concluding comment:
The lucknow meeting was a very productive and successful event. About 15
to 20 groups all over India attended the two-day workshop and shared their
experiences, successes and concerns. Active Asha volunteers met on the
third day for a discussion about Asha Centre and other activities of Asha
in the coming days.
 The future priorities for Asha India are 
1. to build the first Asha base near Lucknow which will encompass not only
Asha workers but also the entire neighboring village community. This will
serve as a living example of Asha's ideology.
2. building real life centers of self-reliance were people can come to
learn and train themselves (current ones are  Vallabacharya - beekeeping -
Varanasi; Sheetal Sharma - block and screen printing - Lucknow; Nandalal -
Weaving - near Varanasi ;  Mahesh - Ayurvedic products - Ballia and
3. to work with projects and individuals of high quality. This means
Asha's project review process should be revisited and critically examined.
4. documentation of both work done in Asha's projects as well as other
exemplary alternative education models.


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