A positive change is something which is very necessary in today’s world. India is a country where even though the education standards are remarkable, the rate of illiteracy among children in villages or under privileged children is high. Saakshar Organisation is one of the genuine and actively working NGOs working for under privileged children to promote primary basic education in rural areas. Their main goal being equipping every child with confidence, communication skills and creating opportunities to achieve his/her fullest potential through building communities of change. Saakshar’s working model includes go to Primary Government Schools on Saturdays and teaching the children using innovative methodologies. They not only follow Standard Textbook Syllabus, but also useful Life Skills, which basically means Problem Solving, Leadership, Basic Arithmetic, Communication Skills, Informed Decision Making and so on. It is a community of passionate change makers who share a common vision and are willing to bring a change in the conventional education model, especially among-st underprivileged children and in turn aiming to make a better India.
Lets know more about Saakshar through Rajesh Mummaneni: Founder of Saakshar
1. Tell us about the history of your organization ?
Saakshar Organisation started up in the last academic year on 23rd December 2016. 248 children in 5 schools(2 in Vizianagaram, 3 in Visakhapatnam) got benefited from our programs in the pilot project(2016-2017) so far. The results have been so inspiring. We have been working with just a single Facebook page. We have even raised donations for our programs via same. In this academic year(2017-2018), we are currently operating in 4 schools(3 in Vizianagaram and 1 in Guwahati). We have built our communities in New Delhi, Hyderabad, Navi Mumbai and Guwahati and we are all set to start our operations soon. Our future plans are to start local chapters in many places of India by replicating the same model to help and improve more number of children and to set up a website for more being transparent and to exhibit what Saakshar is doing in a proper manner.
2. What was the main motivation and inspiration behind starting ‘Saakshar’ ?
I’m the one with acute stage fear, found it difficult to cope with anxiety while speaking in Just A Minute session. It didn’t take me much time to realize that similar problems are faced by the children from primary schools. In spite of getting a basic education, most of the children are ill-equipped, they can’t solve basic arithmetic sums and lack communication skills. I looked after the problems that are currently present in our society by talking with many people. Actually, there are many things to be solved, I constantly looked for one thing which has the power to transform their lives. As education is the powerful weapon I wanted to start on Education sector. Coming to how did the idea come to my mind, I just wanted to solve the problem by using the resources in a cost- effective manner. So, I immediately thought "youth could do something meaningful during the weekends which can benefit the children at extremes if provided a platform." So, this idea looked executable for me and I went on to create a small community of passionate volunteers. The idea is to groom the children in a way where they can grow up to be more confident and not face struggles. Our mission is the biggest motivator of all. Witnessing and supporting give back culture and empathy are what inspires our whole team to keep on working.
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3. What is the structure of your organization and how flexible it is for the new people who join in ?
We follow functional organization structure which means we would group all of the marketing people together in one department, group all of the Change-makers(volunteers) together in a separate department, and group all of the content writing people together in a third department. We follow a more collaborative and a highly flexible approach. Joining process of new people is very simple, they are asked to fill a Google form and we will get back to them on their responses immediately.
4. What are the main goals and objectives of ‘Saakshar’ ?
Saakshar’s main goal is to equip every child with confidence, communication skills and to create opportunities to achieve his/her fullest potential through building communities of change.
5. What are the biggest achievements and accolades you have won till now ?
In September 2017, I have been appointed as the Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School launched by the United Nations former Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon on 1st April 2014 in an effort to build and strengthen the emerging youth movement for global education. In August 2017, I have been recognized as a GAP Changemaker for being a passionate and committed individual. I have been selected to be a part of Ashoka’s highly selective Youth Venture Programme which was launched to recognize efforts of young individuals who have started innovative projects/ventures demonstrating social impact.
We have been published in local media several times. But what really is an achievement to us when the children really get hugely benefited from our program and when the volunteers really feel happy to be a part of Saakshar.
To include a few :-
Ganesh, one of the students in our Summer Computing Camp said he was about to pay 2000rs to a private institute where they had taught nothing as he has gone to classes for one week and complimented us that we were teaching far better than the private institution for no cost and a lot many students told that they learned a lot through us.
We had received a call in May 2017 from Bondapalli Primary Government School Head Mistress. (This is one of the 5 schools Saakshar Organisation has taken care of in the past academic year) She shared that -Mentoring sessions provided by Saakshar in the previous year are of immense value and children hugely got benefited from that. She also stated that the educational materials provided are really helpful and our constant support and materials have unleashed children’s creativity. A teachers training meeting was conducted in the past week for reviewing past year. In the meeting, she has told that the children became very enthusiastic and very active. Saakshar took care of everything, they are regularly monitoring the activities and helping us in getting things done in an efficient manner. They were a lot more concerned about the school than the villagers residing there." Moments like these make us do a lot more!
6. How different is ‘Saakshar’ from other NGO’s out there ?
What makes Saakshar unique is that we are volunteers driven organization. Volunteers are given highest importance and their decisions will always be taken into consideration in any meetings. Also, convenience is our USP. Easy in, easy out. How Saakshar operates can be told in a single line which is “Give 2 hours a week for an academic year, educate and transform a class.”
7. Do you think Government is helping such organizations in achieving their goals ? If not, then what will be your recommendation ?
I will say that it varies from place to place. In some places higher officials are very supportive and in other places they are not.
8. How do you hire people at ‘Saakshar’ ?
I’ve actually met a lot of people who are passionate about this cause and I’ve closely observed them and tested their skill-sets. I’ve formally invited them to join the core team and they gladly accepted the invitation and joined in the mission.
9. What are your future plans regarding expansion and marketing of the organization ?
We want to increase the number of schools for improving more children. Within 1 year from now, we should be serving a minimum of 10 to 15 schools by strengthening our community of 80 members to 150 to 200 members. We should have tie ups with many corporate in the form of their CSR activities for serving more children. We should request and on board experienced change-makers as advisers and team members for strengthening the team.
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