Akshara Foundation

Akshara Foundation's mission is to ensure that Every Child is in School and Learning Well. Our work focuses on universalizing primary education. We work both at the primary and pre-primary levels. We work towards our goals through innovative, scalable models.We believe that our generation has a unique opportunity to bridge gaps by bringing equitable access to high-quality, relevant education to all. We emphasize on performance management,technology usage and creating volunteering opportunities.
May 26, 2015

Mothers in the role of Assessors

Every year, Akshara Foundation conducts a baseline and an endline assessment to track the progress in learning of the children in the Anganwadis. This year, the assessments were marked by a significant departure from the programme’s tradition. The norm is for anganwadi workers to do the assessments, often assisted by the Akshara’s Field Cordinators. This time Akshara invited mothers to carry them out. For an anganwadi, it was a striking new idea.

The involvement of mothers in an essential programme rite is a precursor to the deeper linkages the community can form with anganwadis. The team believes that if anganwadis have to lift themselves out of lethargy and inefficiency, people must take over the reins to some extent, at least make their presence felt, and above all, exert a ground-up demand for quality improvement.

During the assessments, mothers kept trickling in. 108 of them participated in the 140 Bangalore anganwadis in Akshara’s programme. The team did not expect even this turnout, considering the apathy towards anganwadis, known more for non-performance than anything else, and the general lack of awareness of what constitutes preschool education

The questionnaire is a paradigm the team had specially structured for anganwadi children. It has 52 indicators to test the children in the 2 – 4 age group and 62 for the 4 – 6 age group. Some of the mothers were not too literate and, even though it is not a complicated tool, they could not read, and in some cases when they could, they could not understand it. But the goodwill for the process was strong. When they were out of their depth they stood on the margins, watching with interest and taking it all in.

For the mother’s it was about getting an inch closer to their child’s education. They were surprised that their children were being asked such questions. They had no inkling of what preschool education is all about, that there is this universe of things their children have to know for their age, in keeping with developmental milestones. Buttoning and unbuttoning, for instance, walking in a straight line, pouring water into a jar without spilling, shapes, colours, letters.

Most of the families that send their children to anganwadis come from under-privileged backgrounds. The mothers are mostly daily wage workers and are un-educated. But they really want to educate their children. Through this exercise, the mothers understood what their children should focus on even if they can’t help them out very much.  They will atleast now participate by tracking what their children are learning in the anganwadis and how they are progressing.

This is the first step towards a positive change, involving mothers into education!


Jan 23, 2015

Anganwadi Profile - Bangalore

In the current academic year 2014-15, Akshara Foundation developed a set of 30 indicators to measure the status of the anganwadis where its preschool programme is being implemented. The tool aligns with some of the quality parameters specified by the National Curriculum Framework. Some are infrastructure related indicators, some are enablers. In July 2014 Akshara collected data on a host of factors, which included the infrastructure situation and student enrolment. All 140 anganwadis in which Akshara works in Bangalore across 24 ICDS Circles in 6 Projects were assessed. ICDS is the Integrated Child Development Services which functions under the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD), Government of India, and manages anganwadis.

 This is a one-time assessment, a record that the DWCD can make use of. At Akshara it will go into the Karnataka Learning Partnership’s database on anganwadis and schools. Teams will also deploy this powerful tool in ways that can spur constructive action - as leverage with the community and with Bal VikasSamithi (BVS) members in particular, who are the community caretakers of anganwadis.

Presented below is a quick profile of the Bangalore anganwadis:

Physical Condition

  • 77% of the anganwadis have their own building.
  • 35% lacked the space to function effectively.
  • 46.4% lacked outdoor facilities for children.

Basic Amenities

  • 60% of the anganwadis have access to clean bathrooms with water facilities.
  • 79.3% have clean and safe drinking water facilities.
  • Nearly 62% have a designated place for washing hands.
  • 30% of the anganwadis do not have seating facilities for the children.

 Hygiene Conditions

  • 88.6% of the anganwadis maintain standards of cleanliness.
  • 67% have dustbins to dispose of waste.

 Food Hygiene

  • 43% of the anganwadis do not have sufficient space to store food.
  • 85.7% have clean food storage rooms.
  • All the anganwadis keep cooked food covered properly. The cooks maintain standards of hygiene and cleanliness.

 Children with Special Needs

  • 13.5% of the children are children with special needs.
  • 70.7% of the anganwadis do not have any infrastructure for children with special needs.

 Preschool Teaching-Learning Materials

  • 27.1% of the anganwadis do not have sufficient learning and play materials for the children.
  • Though 69.3% of the anganwadis have sufficient indoor learning materials, nearly 28% of the children do not use them.
  • 71.4% of the anganwadis have a blackboard in class, of which 48% are beyond reach.
  • 81.4% do not have teaching-learning inscriptions on the walls as government learning centres often do.

 Community Involvement

  • 88.6% of the anganwadis have functioning Bal VikasSamithis. Only 47.9% of the Samithis function effectively.
  • 29.3% of the anganwadis have active Friends of Anganwadis, support groups of mothers.

 Student Enrolment

  • Enrolment in the 140 anganwadis in Bangalore (girls and boys) – 3433.
  • Girls enrolled – 1794.
  • Boys enrolled – 1639.
  • Girls and boys present on the day of the survey – 2503.
  • Girls present on the day of the survey – 1318.
  • Boys present on the day of the survey – 1185.
  • Girls and boys absent on the day of the survey – 930 (27%).
  • Girls absent on the day of the survey – 476 (26.5%).
  • Boys absent on the day of the survey – 380 (23.1%).

 To Sum Up

 Seen together, this represents a positive scene. Most of the anganwadis surveyed are not deficit-ridden though there are shortfalls that could be addressed in all of them. Much attention has gone into infrastructure, hygiene and cleanliness. A remarkable statistic is that 60% of the anganwadis have access to clean bathrooms with water facilities and 79.3% have safe, clean drinking water. Community pressure could more forcefully be exerted if the Bal VikasSamithis were more efficient. 88.6% of the anganwadis have constituted the Samithis, with only 47.9% of them functioning effectively.

What then are the deficiencies that drag the anganwadis down?  In 69.3% of the centres there are indoor learning materials. The trouble spot – 28% of the children do not use any of them. There is no outdoor play area in most of the centres. While enrolment stands at 3433 in the 140 anganwadis, 930 children were absent on the day of the survey. Absenteeism seems rampant. And preschool education may be taking a back seat with no scientific underpinning to teaching-learning and poor methods of curriculum delivery.

We hope that these statistics will help Akshara and other organizations working in the space of pre-school anganwadis, fill the necessary gaps to provide better learning in these centres, through a child friendly atmosphere. 


Aug 13, 2014

An Anganwadi the Community nurtures

Years and Years Ago

  •  Fifteen years ago KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 was a scene of depletion, functioning in adversity. The poorly maintained brick-and-tile roof was hardly sheltering. It is the kind still seen in Kumbalgod, 20 kilometres from Bangalore, off the highway to Mysore, an old roofing technique that has all but vanished with time. The anganwadi had no floor, no electricity, not a drop of water, no toilet, no prop or pillar. A dark room, half-baked. And no teaching-learning - that was unheard of.
  • Lakkamma, the anganwadi helper, who seems as if she has strayed in from some ancient past, remembers a time even farther away. Twenty five years ago things may well have been from another century. She worked with sticks to light the fire, then came the kerosene stove that she coaxed into sputtering life, and now the era of gas. There she stands, staunch and motherly, over the double-burner gas stove in the small storeroom, brewing strong, milky tea with a sense of possession, the modern context heightening her rough-hewn, villager-like quality. “The anganwadi is functioning well,” she says, acknowledging its superior strengths.

An Anganwadi with Amenities

  • It is Nallooramma, the anganwadi teacher here for twelve years, who presides over the amplitude. There is so much teaching-learning material that KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 could do with an additional room or two. Arranged along the sides according to Akshara’s preschool education pedagogy, they are an incentive for children.\
  • Every inch of wall space is covered with stimulation, painted by a supportive Gram Panchayat. If it is a hand-painted animal story unspooling on one wall, then it is the Department of Women and Child Development’s messages for child development and community well-being on another.
  • Charts jostle – the alphabets in Kannada and English, vehicles, fruits, numbers. Children’s paintings, suspended on strings, stretch diagonally across the room – a bird of orange and blue plumage, a girl in a distinctive dance pose, her skirt flaring, a fat boy enjoying an ice cream.
  • There are cupboards of wood and steel, a tall rack, plastic chairs for visitors, mats for children to sit on, a solid cement floor, air and natural light. This is not all. KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 has electricity, a fan, a fully functioning toilet, water never running short, transported from the sump outside with the help of a motor, recently affixed. 

A Model Anganwadi

  • The anganwadi reflects in every sense the progressive thought that prevails in Kumbalgod, a small habitat of progress and relative prosperity, close to Bangalore and yet far.
  • Seventeen children, dressed in colourful exuberance, sit in the central pool of space, their attention riveted by LEGO, quite unsurpassed as play-and-learning material in anganwadis. LEGO kits are a part of Akshara’s teaching-learning package in model anganwadis.
  • The anganwadi is a model anganwadi in Akshara’s preschool programme, selected because it meets all the criteria of a full-fledged preschool. For four years Akshara has groomed this centre, upgrading standards and positioning it as an exemplary anganwadi. Fifteen children from the March 2014 group secured admission in class 1 in private schools, announces Nallooramma, a professional victory she is overjoyed with.

 People Support Drives the Anganwadi

  • If Nallooramma sets the pace for her anganwadi, the final word rests with the community. It is people support that has taken this anganwadi where it is today. The community is the spearhead for the change it has seen. It is a partnership, a symbiotic bond. For all that has happened between then and now, people are responsible.
  • Akshara is a catalyst, invigorating Bal Vikas Samithis (BVS), the external community support structures for anganwadis ordained by government which, on paper, is a reality, seldom so in action. Akshara trained 1439 Bal Vikas Samithis, or roughly 15,547 BVS members, across 1439 anganwadis in Bangalore four years ago. It was a successful attempt at creating a community matrix for the nurture and support of anganwadis.
  • Field teams visit communities like Kumbalgod at least once a month, attending parents’ meetings in anganwaids, meeting and engaging with people, forging relationships, and persuading them to do more for their preschool centres.
  • Community mobilisation for anganwadis is an important component of Akshara’s preschool programme, and Kumbalgod was quick to seize the opportunity. Akshara had opened a door, and residents, aware and sentient as they are, took advantage of the openings.

A Monthly Meeting for Finding Solutions

  • KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 is privileged to have a committed corps of people ready to champion its cause. The Gram Panchayat is responsive and takes on “the big things,” says Nallooramma. The toilet was constructed with funds allotted by the Panchayat.
  • The Bal VikasSamithi which has 14 members, is an active support mechanism for the anganwadi. Nallooramma is a BVS member, wielding a large role. She convenes monthly BVS meetings and ensures that everyone is present when the anganwadi’s problems are raised and discussed. Solution-finding is the meeting’s agenda. Action inevitably follows afterwards. 

“For the Progress of Children”

  •  Members of the ChowdammaSosaiah Group, a women’s self-help group, four of whom are in the BVS too, are keen drivers of change. With its trademark of togetherness and bonding, always an impetus for the community, the group takes decisive action on behalf of KumbalgodAnganwadi 1. The four women form a charged inner BVS circle that takes its mandate to heart. The self-help group’s office behind the anganwadi declares its mission on an unpretentious board that dangles at the entrance. “For the well-being of people. For the progress of children.” 
  • Yashodha, 41, who is the BVS President and a Gram Panchayat member, lives up to this tradition. “My aim is that children should improve. I would like all of us as a community to improve,” she says, sitting in a chair in the anganwadi which a Sangha member has donated. 

“I Can Do More. I Want to”

  • Yashodha is a strong-minded person, a woman of many gifted parts who conceals it behind an exterior of restraint, modesty and an almost total self-elimination. Yashodha underwent Akshara’s BVS training. It taught her to look at her role in the anganwadi in a new light. It made her intensely aware of all that she could do for uplift and amelioration.
  • She is multi-skilled, utilising her assets to further the anganwadi. Communication is a flourishing instinct and she can talk to an MLA or a truck driver with equal felicity. Organising, managing and coordinating for the anganwadiis every day’s work. The anganwadi has electricity today because of her.
  • She can take charge of a consignment of provisions for the anganwadi after it has closed for the day, provide a wholesome meal for the children, or teach when called upon to. Or marshal community support, as she recently did for Akshara’sMakkalaHabba, or Children’s Festival, held at the anganwadi. Yashodha contributed nearly Rs. 12,000 from her personal funds for the Habba, believing passionately that anganwadis do not often give children anything of substance and value. She goes about reversing that trend, at least in KumbalgodAnganwadi 1, and made the Habba a community event that has stayed in people’s minds.
  • Yashodhacasts a look around at the children, LEGO-bound and marooned, of their own free will, in the centre, erecting towers with the coloured blocks or experimenting with them. Her granddaughter studied here. “I can do more. I want to,” she says.

 “I Want to Help Children”

  • Ganganarasimha, a gracious grandmother, her hair a respectable, frizzy grey, prefers to recede into the background, but she is no less an instrument of change in Kumbalgod. The President of the ChowdammaSosaiah Group and a BVS member, she got the water connection for the anganwadi from the Taluk Panchayat. She had the fan installed, contributed the chairs, the mats.
  • “Just look at these children,” she says. They thrive in this anganwadi’splenitude, motivated, discipline ingrained in them. They are clean, neatly dressed. Hygiene-conscious parents must have made the early morning effort. Children leave their slippers in a line at the entrance, careful not to make a mess. Akshara’s preschool programme is responsible for the orderly conduct, members say, but underline the energy and efforts the BVS puts in as well. 
  • “I want to help children,” says Ganganarasimha. Her two sons studied here years ago and now she has her 2 ½ year old grandson, Vardhan, going through one of life’s earliest phases in the same anganwadi, a rejuvenated centre that can rival any private preschool in the area.
  • Rangalakshmamma is from the BVS and also a member of the self-help group. She sits self-contained, nodding endorsement. Her children passed through this anganwadi too and her grandchildren are here now.

“We are not Afraid to Do Things”

  • For these women, KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 is the stuff of memory lanes and nostalgia. They have a lot at stake here, an emotional investment. Their grandchildren will soon move on, but they rise above personal considerations to embrace the larger good of Kumbalgod. They believe this government-run anganwadi has to be an essential rite of passage for all preschool-aged children in the community, today and in the future, a life-determining choice, now that it has elevated itself as a reform-driven, learning-oriented centre.
  • Nallooramma is developing into a force herself, already proving she has it in her. An array of strengths is on display – in teaching and classroom management, canvassing in the community, and in organising, the MakkalaHabba a recent example. She is proud to be a BVS member, she says, and is determined to safeguard the anganwadi’s hard-earned place in the sun. “We are not afraid to do things,” she says, with a masterly sweep of her hands.



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