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Education, freedom and social transformation in India

March 15, 2015

The following essay by Maitreyee Roy Malakar from IEM won first prize in our essay writing competition for International Women’s Week 2015

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” – George Washington

What is Education? Is it only a key to achieve those glamorous degrees? Then why is it such that despite having so many degree-holders in this country, moral education is the thing that the country lacks? If there was a system to test humanity of each of these degree-holders prior to achieving those degrees, the number of degree holders in this country would drop by such a margin, we cannot even imagine!

The recent controversial documentary on the Nirbhaya case that took the country by storm,that showcased the thoughts of the “educated” lawyers of our judiciary system points out how much education in India has degraded. India, now, stands on the brink of utter hopelessness and helplessness. Government surely has taken a lot of attempts to bring education to our society. But more than that bookish knowledge, what India needs now is education on humanity and morality. Character building should be the first and foremost subject in each child’s education.

“Without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they will face. So it’s very important to give children education and explain that they should play a role for their country.” – Nelson Mandela

Freedom does not come to one through the kind of education one undergoes in schools or colleges.

Freedom is an attribute of oneself. It comes to one when one can set its mind flexible to the changes around. Orthodox societies can never be the breeding ground for freedom. If one can relate to problems of others, if one can reach out to others in their times of need, one’s soul is bound to get freedom.
Now-a-days,many of us get confused by the term “freedom”. Freedom comes at a cost. India provides us with freedom of speech. But in spite of using this freedom for betterment of our society, everyone of us is exploiting this freedom to serve our egos, personal desires. People are losing sanity. Abusing others and using freedom of speech to cover up for these abusive actions; freedom does not allow one to do that. Social media, one of the greatest fruit of social transformation has become the breeding ground for such insanities.

Social transformation in India has changed so many pictures. It had assumed a truly structural dimension engulfing the whole of society. Greater political participation, exposure to media led to new social and political awareness. The cumulative results of various social forces along with major investments in science and technology, in agriculture, industry and health etc. have shown impressive results. In urban-industrial domain a new mercantile entrepreneurial class has emerged. All this has been possible due to the increasing awareness regarding right education.

“A good education is the greatest gift you can give yourself or anyone else.” -Mahtab Narsimhan.

So come and participate in educating India.

We thank Maitreyee Roy Malaka for her wonderful insights and for her participation in the competition.

International Women’s Week Essay & Art Contest

March 15, 2015

We are heartened by the support that we at Gyanada Foundation have seen from India, Singapore and around the world. We have grown, not only in size, but also in team, vision and ambition.

As part of our celebrations for International Women’s Week, our new website and other good news, we ran an essay and art competition which saw good response from women across colleges in India.

Dyuti

We’re happy to announce that the winner of the drawing category is Dyuti Sen of Loreto College, who created the above piece which signifies the importance of educating girls in India.

The winner of the essay category is Maitreyee Roy Malakar of IEM, whose article “Education, Freedom and Social Transformation in India” resonated deeply with the judges. Click here to read her winning entry.

Congratulations to both Dyuti and Maitreyee!

We thank all participants for taking part in this year’s contest and we look forward to your entries next year.

Gyanada, Rebooted

March 15, 2015

Welcome to the brand new Gyanada, where it is not only our website and branding which has changed and improved, but also our work in improving girls’ education in India.

In late 2014, we received our 80G and 12A certification from the Indian government, which means we are able to offer tax exemptions to individuals and corporations who contribute from India, from 2015.

We have also spent the last few months creating a database and donor access platform (check it out here), which lets donors view details about their contributions in real-time. It also lets our staff perform their tasks more efficiently, as they are able to keep abreast of the child’s academic and personal development a few times a year when our partners fill out the details. For more information about how it works, have a look at this post outlining how the database works. If you’re an existing Gyanada contributor, you should have received an email with your access details. If not, please write us an email and we will set you up.

We’re delighted to announce the winners for our first International Women’s Day essay and art contest. Maitreyee Roy Malakar of IEM submitted a winning entry, “Education, Freedom and Social Transformation in India”, which resonated deeply with the judges, while Dyuti Sen of Loreto College won with her submission for an art piece signifying the importance of educating women in India. Congratulations to both Dyuti and Maitreyee for your great work! Thanks also to all participants for taking part in our contest. Find out all about the winning entries here.

We are also looking for volunteers and donors to help us take Gyanada forward. If you’re interested in volunteering, here are some volunteering opportunities. Donations are always welcome (and very much needed), and we now accept INR donations through our Indian entity, as well as SGD and USD donations through our Singapore bank account (more details here). Any amount is welcome, though it costs about US$200 / INR 12 500 / SGD 250 to sponsor 1 girl child.

We look forward to hearing feedback and advice from you about how we can do better, and how you would like to improve girls’ education in India together with us. Simply drop us an email or reply to this post and let us know what you think!

Why Private Schools

March 13, 2015

In India, poor parents are increasingly voting with their hard-earned money and choosing private schools over “free” government or public schools.

Indeed, many parents send their sons to private schools and daughters to government schools, for lack of money. While universal primary schooling is now a reality, there is still high dropout at the secondary level – again, especially for girls. We can debate how to make public schools better – as many are rightly doing, and Gyanada plans to be a part of that discussion as well.

But right now data from Pratham’s ASER reports, MIT Poverty Action Lab’s rigorous studies and other sources tell us that private schools are what parents and students want because they deliver better results even after adjusting for socio-economic characteristics for the class intake. Moreover, such philanthropy also doubles up as a public policy demonstrator as often budget private schools in India achieve these results at a fraction of the cost of government schools.

Here at Gyanada Foundation we endorse and advocate for low cost private schools as an alternative pathway to receiving a better education, often in the communities they live in.

To us, private vs public is not merely a question of public policy. It is about whether or not we can improve academic outcomes, and thus quality of lives, right now. Each additional year a girl has of school increases her income by 20%. With the availability of low-cost private alternatives to public schools across India, even in rural areas, we believe we are able to offer a choice to parents.

The research continues to show that students in private schools outperforms those in public schools. Whether or not this is causation or correlation is something which is still being researched, with some preliminary evidence from independent sources reinforcing our hypothesis on private schools (ASER, Poverty Action Lab, and many others). We continue to monitor the policy debates, and to also track the performance of the schools and families we work with in a rigorous manner.

Donors receive special and frequent access to their sponsored child’s academic results. We welcome all debate and discussion on this and other policy matters.

Meet “Little Beta”, Our Donor Access Platform & Database

March 10, 2015

When we started Gyanada, one of the best parts which donors loved was that we sent them report cards and little notes from the kids from time to time. As our activities grew, so did the amount of logistics required to carry out the same experience for all our donors.

I’m happy to announce that with the help of one of our first donors, we have created a database which serves two purposes: it helps our staff keep an eye on the academic and non-academic performance of our kids across different cities, as partners are required to submit frequent reports on some metrics we track (such as grades, and even special abilities or interests in drawing or other activity). We also open up partial access to our donors who are able to track the progress of the girls they have sponsored.

Feature: Profile

You’ll get to see some background information on the child you have sponsored, along with other details about her family or personal characteristics. We track these, as any changes in the family’s economic situation can lead to children dropping out abruptly. We are also interested in their non-academic talents, and in the future we will looking into creating opportunities in those areas.

Donor Access Platform

Feature: Report Card

Academic performance is an essential part of what we do. However, we are a needs-based organization, not one which only awards assistance on merit. Regardless of how they do, as long as they stay in school we continue to fund their education.

Beta - Grades Sample

How Do I Access This?

If you are a current Gyanada donor, you would have received access details via email! (Can’t find it? Get in touch with us and we’ll hook you up.)

We are always looking forward to using technology in innovative ways to solve some of the problems that we face, for both our team and for the work we do. Do you have proficiency in web and mobile development? Perhaps you will be a good fit for our tech volunteer role.