I got a lifetime opportunity to spend 2 weeks (3rd Feb - 17 Feb) observing and understanding Ekal Foundation's work in tribal belts of Assam (11 days-Tejpur, Gulaghat, Shivsagar and Dibrugarh district) as well as Chhattisgarh (4 days - Ekal Global Learning). During this time I have seeing many Vidyalaya (Ekalâ€™s informal schools), interacted with Acharyas (teachers), travelled with Ekal's volunteers and seen the reports made by them. My stay was arranged either in Ekal's karyalayas (offices) or house of villagers and Samiti people. Ekal has arranged the whole program so beautifully that I got a change to observe every aspect of Ekal, understand its philosophy and see various training programs as well as interacting with full time Volunteers at every level. Ekal Abhiyan has achieved great success in development of rural as well as remote tribal areas of India through its unique concept, brilliant management and honest and dedicated volunteers. Whenever we visited any village or tribe, the hospitability by people was overwhelming. There the meaning of "Athithi Devo Bhava" is easily understood. For instance in Moran Tribe (Assam) whole tribe assembled beating drums, singing and dancing to receive us and honored by offering garlands, applying tika (kumkum) and performing â€œAartiâ€?. Adding to this was the delicious food that was served with utmost reverence.
Welcome by people of Moran Tribe (Assam)
Ekal Vidyalaya is working for development of India by making villages prosper through education, healthcare, empowerment, moral values and development. On interacting with Acharyas and children, I got to know that before Ekal Vidyalaya very few of the children were going to school in their villages. But today as I have seen more than 90% of the children are enrolled with government schools. This was due to the interest for education that has been roused in children by innovative informal teaching mechanisms of Ekal.
This image is of school in Kamuhat village(Assam) where the students in photo didnâ€™t even enrolled in school but after attending 3 years at Ekal they joined Government school and are now studying in 8th, 9th, 10th classes.
Most of the Ekal Vidyalaya seen were either running in government school buildings, anganwadis or in a structure erected by villagers for this purpose. Ekal has worked very intelligently as a support to government education and has connected children with the main line education provided by the government. It has efficiently used the already present infrastructure and also integrated â€œAasha taiyisâ€? (Government appointed lady for taking care of pregnant women) and Aanganwadi teachers. Apart from education, the self confidence and moral values that were found in students was amazing. The beautifully introduced themselves and confidently answer questions. It was a great fun talking to them and listening to their poems.
This is a Ekal school in Tejpur(Assam) running in a Anganwadi room.
In the area of village development, the training imparted to villagers by Ekal has increased the practice of organic farming and many houses were having pits for vermi compost. Along with these programs Satsang has played a very big role in implicitly uniting them thus helping in reducing disputes, engaging people in developmental work and also in reducing alcoholism. In one of the tribe that I visited, people collectively clean the roads of their tribe every Sunday. And every house contributed one handful of grain daily to generate money for development.
A full time volunteer of Ekal (Chhattisgarh) explaining to villagers how to prepare organic manure
Ekal's health education has helped greatly in making people self sufficient in treating small issues. This has reduced the cases where small injuries/illness because of untimely treatment lead to bigger problems. People were also aware of hygiene and cleanliness.
Medical kit of basic medicines is given to each school and Teacher is trained for this purpose.
As far as empowerment is concerned, Ekal has achieved great heights in empowering villagers especially women. In Assam I was really surprised to see that most of the Acharyas and many full time volunteers are women. For instance in Thelamara Clusters in Assam out of 27 Acharyas 26 were women!!!. Also people became aware of RTI and government schemes for them. The Acharyas and volunteers are normally from the villages. The programs for training them are very well designed and have imparted self confidence in them. This I observed greatly in this Cluster after talking to volunteers like Anita ji (who supervises this Cluster) and Acharyas.
Acharya Training Varg in Thelamara Cluster (Assam)
10 days program in a Jagdalpur Cluster ( Chhattisgarh) for training Acharayas
The huge success of running 35,000 schools country wide is attributed to many factors but I felt the most important is motivation to work for nation, sheer dedication and honesty of volunteers. On a meager honorarium they work day and night and that too in very difficult situations. They travel miles on foot and cycle for reaching in the interior areas where there is no transportation, face problems
because of insurgency groups and many other situations. One such incidence that I remember is, in one of the training programs in a interior village Raju ji (a volunteer) had reached there by travelling 7 km on foot and had to return by foot. When I asked him how he can regularly travel so much on foot, he modestly answered "When Shree Ram can travel 14 years on foot why can't I travel 14 km"!!!!
On the road shown, Vishwajeetji (a volunteer) carried me on the bicycle from one of the Vidyalayas to bus stand.
I also got a chance to understand the reporting mechanism of Ekal. It has a systematic and a well managed account of very detailed data to the level of attendance of each student. There is also a robust organizational structure in place which facilitates efficient flow of planning from top to bottom and flow of reports from bottom to top in the organization. The beautiful concept of having a Samiti (part time volunteers) to manage finance and other activities adds to legitimacy and transparency. For example even the meager reimbursement claimed by any volunteer has to be attested by at least three people (one has to be of Samiti) to get it approved. Samiti also plays a paternal role for full time volunteers providing them confidence and motivation.
This is the Monthly Account Report of Gulaghat (Assam) district
This is a Monthly Work Report of Gulaghat(Assam) district
It was a wonderful journey that gave exposure to rich cultural and moral heritage of our country. It gave hope that there are people who dedicate their life for nation and in our country also something good is happening. I am thankful to God for giving me this rare opportunity of spending 2 weeks with Ekal. I wish all the success to Ekal Vidyalaya in its work of nation building.