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 Education  India Project #39434


by Akshara Foundation


Dear Akshara supporter,
Hope this email finds you in good health and better spirits.
To say the least, March and April were difficult months for the world as a whole. With terms like ‘social distancing’, ‘sanitisers’ and ‘masks’ being used in every other sentence, people braced themselves for a pandemic like never before. We were bombarded with predictions by experts, rules by governments and casualty coverage by the media. At the same time, we also had images and videos of people not following these new rules flood our feeds.
Convincing the last person in the last village about the gravity of the situation, why these new rules, how they were going to protect us was the absolute need of the hour. The challenge then was to figure out how Akshara could help people understand the NEED for these new rules as this ‘new normal’ is here to stay, for a while.
During April – June ‘20, here’s how Akshara’s field staff and our ~15,000 village education volunteers and GP Team Leads, we have come together to do their bit in helping to flatten the curve.

Total community members contacted (through house calls, on the phone/visited households or village squares) - 5,67,682

Total Education Department officials contacted - 24,310

We've received so many stories from the field of our field staff and volunteers going the extra mile to help in any way they can in these difficult times. Here are three tidbits to make your day just a little sunnier.  

  1. Nisha of Arji Gram Panchayat in Virajpet, Coorg district, Karnataka immediately put her machine to task and sewed up around 80 masks for people in her village.
  2. Mr. Shivakumar, a Gram Panchayat Team Leader along with three Village Education Volunteers Krishnappa, K. T. Swami and Mahesh, distributed food to around 50 families in Guddadarangavvanahalli Gram Panchayat in Chitradurga district, Karnataka.
  3. Ranganath and his team of over 4000 volunteers got the attention of local press where articles speak about how this team has spread awareness to ~4516 people just in April ’20 alone, in various villages in Yadgir District, Karnataka about 'Corona Virus', social distancing, cleanliness etc. and how by downloading the Building Blocks App, children are staying home during the lockdown and learning math.

People have been sending us pictures by the dozen of children learning math by playing games on the Building Blocks app. We're amazed at how easily they've eased into this digital era of learning and had to share our excitement with you all.

While the next few months look bleak with schools being the last of the list to open up, we at Akshara are busy thinking of ways to reinvent the wheel, and ensure learning never stops, especially with life in the new normal, where social distancing plays a primary role.

Thank you for your continued belief and support to us.

Stay safe and take care!

Nisha's little contribution
Nisha's little contribution
Newspaper coverage of Ranganath and his volunteers
Newspaper coverage of Ranganath and his volunteers
Our COVID-19 message
Our COVID-19 message
Children practise math using Building Blocks app
Children practise math using Building Blocks app


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As the Gram Panchayat (GP) President of Virapapur, Sindhnur taluk, Raichur district, Karnataka, Mr. Chatrappa Malladgudda could have stayed safely within the confines of what Panchayats conventionally do – administration and public works execution. Education somehow gets left out of the profile. Mr. Malladgudda has been quietly going about making it his work, and his Panchayat’s too. Library books and 200 lunch plates distributed to all 6 government schools in the 4 villages in his jurisdiction, two computers to one school, and a gate for another school’s compound. He pushed the GP to act on these fronts. Mr. Malladgudda takes his job seriously. He is energetic, courageous to take action and resourceful, known to think beyond the ordinary, and open to change. With such reliable building blocks in his character, it was hardly surprising that he took charge of Akshara’s Mathematics Contest, and instead of taking personal credit for it, made it a collective endeavour. 

Akshara’s Gram Panchayat Mathematics Contests are distinctive events for government primary school children in the villages of Karnataka. A competition, a community activity and a festive atmosphere, wrapped as one. Children in classes 4, 5 and 6 from the government schools in a GP’s purview participate. The GP leads from the front - the logistics, infrastructure and part of the financial investment. The community typically bolsters it with donor support, goodwill, and individual contributions in cash or kind. So far, Akshara has facilitated about 1750 GP contests in 2019-20.

Mr. Chatrappa Malladgudda seized the opportunity that came calling. But there was a hitch. The GP contests fall within the GKA umbrella - Ganitha Kalika Andolana, Akshara’s resource-rich Mathematics programme reaching 1.2 million children in grades 1-5 in government primary schools of Karnataka, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

Though the initiative started in 2015-16 and schools in the Virapapur Panchayat have been its beneficiaries, teachers were not using the kit, which is the programme’s learning and activity nucleus. Making it worse were the learning levels in the 6 schools which, overall, were far from heartening. Thus was a breach in implementatio that Mr. Malladgudda was unaware of. He called for a meeting with the district officialsand the Akshara team. How could a Mathematics contest take place if GKA had not strengthened children’s knowledge, they asked? The children did not know enough for a competition. They decided to wait for three months, during which time they would examine GKA’s operational efficiency, and help it build competency in classroom practices and support children’s learning. While this unfolded, Mr. Malladgudda put all his efforts into generating awareness among the people about education. 

On the appointed day, Mr. Malladgudda’s well-laid arrangements bore fruit. He grew in stature – from active doer to leader. Transport was organised for the children. They came from the 4 villages, 305 of them, in tractors and vans. The community rose as one to make it a contest worth remembering. He and his Panchayat team had the shamiana ready, the stage, the cash prizes and medals for the winning students, drinking water and refreshments. He even had a plan in place to knowledgeably interface with the media that descended on Virapapur, camera crew in tow, from Kannada newspapers, some of them online publications, and television channels. 

The contest began. The question papers were distributed after the seals were opened at a formal ceremony on stage. The children sat in rows, in uniforms, the essence of discipline, quiet but agog, not over-anxious. The arena filled with community members. The local government, education department officials, School Development and Monitoring Committes, teachers and parents were all there. The test was over in an hour. The answer papers were corrected then and there by Education Volunteers who are dedicated bands of local village youth, spurred by Akshara’s pragmatic educational ideals, and enlist to conduct the contests.

The first prize-winner, a little boy, scored 19/20. There were great glimmers of promise in those answer sheets, but not everyone had done so well. In a couple of days, the Akshara team met Mr. Malladgudda with a report they had prepared on the contest’s learning outcomes. As is his wont, he took the data seriously. He is invested in long-term impact creation. His school visits are now imbued with rigour and urgency. When unable for some reason to make it to the schools every week, he deputes a colleague to fill in. His emphasis used to be provisioning and infrastructure. He is intensely devoted these days to uplifting the learning standards of students in his Panchayat and rectifying the scholastic lack in government schools. This includes oversight of GKA, a weekly Mathematics quiz in all the schools, and the distribution of charts and general knowledge related books. 

The regularity of teachers and effective teaching are other significant areas of attention. School infrastructure is not a dormant issue, it is complementary support to the education agenda. Mr. Malladgudda has a well-rounded approach, education the banner he is upholding. 

The press featured impactful articles. They wrote about Chatrappa Malladgudda also. The GP President who presided over the Mathematics contest, though he chose to play it low-key. When he spoke to the audience from the podium, the message was that children’s learning must improve. He promised the provision of all the basics for a good education and had complimentary words for the GKA kit and its impact. 


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Thank You for being our partner in making math learning a joyful experience for millions on children. We have some exciting news for you!

Akshara Foundation is proud to partner with the ST & SC Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare Department, Odisha on #MissionSuvidya.

Launched by Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik on December 4, 2019, #MissionSuvidya aims to bring qualitative improvement in accommodation provided in 6500 hostels managed by the ST & SC Dev. Department, Govt. of Odisha with about 5.7 lakh students. The mission will provide congenial atmosphere by guaranteeing quality services in safety, health, hygiene and food.

Akshara's role in this partnership will be to bring about improvements in the quality of Education (Numeracy and Literacy) in the Department’s Schools & Hostels across Odisha and impact about 225,000 children in the most difficult areas of the state.

Under #MissionSuvidya, along with Akshara Foundation, two other MoUs were signed with Quality Council of India (for assessment of ST & SC hostels leading to quality assurance & sustenance for ISO 9001:2015 certification) and TRIFED India (to market linkages of various products created by tribal artisans and entrepreneurs in the state.) 

The MoU with Akshara Foundation recognises the organisation as a knowledge partner of the state’s ST & SC department where they will share all their know-how with the department on delivering quality education (Numeracy, Literacy and Library programmes) in government schools that have children purely from tribal/Adivasi communities. 

The specific programmes that will be implemented are:

1. School Readiness Programme (SRP) for Grade 1 Students- SRP involves 8 weeks of developmentally appropriate instruction designed to bolster a child’s pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills, with additional modules on motor skills and social skills. 

2. Classroom/Hostel Library Programme- Classroom/Reading room set-up for promoting reading habits in children as well as training of teachers in tracking improvements in reading proficiency. 

3. Ganitha Kalika Andolana(GKA) in primary schools- GKA is a classroom intervention aligned with Odisha’s state curriculum for mathematics and modalities include provisioning Mathematics Teaching Learning Materials (TLM) to schools, capacity building of teachers on activity based learning and access to online support. This programme is already being implemented in other government schools across the state. 

4. Digital Learning Solutions in schools/hostels- Curriculum aligned digital learning solutions for primary grades to be made accessible in hostels for subjects viz. Mathematics & English. 

5. Digital Assessments Infrastructure for students in schools/hostels- Develop and implement digital assessment infrastructure which can help teachers in conducting formative assessments and track learners’ progress.

Akshara Foundation is an existing partner to Department of School & Mass Education (DSME), Odisha in implementing Ganitha Kalika Andolana across all government primary schools of the state for creating fear-free math classrooms and improving math learning outcomes. The primary objective of the programme is to remove the math fear from students and provide tools to the teacher for making math enjoyable and will support them in their regular classrooms; in short, to improve foundational numeracy. A pilot was started in 4000 primary schools of Balangir & Rayagada and the programme has been extended to all districts of the state in 2019. This is part of the goal to impact 3 million children over the next three years.


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Akshara's Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) program is helping over 1 million children in states of Karnataka, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in India to overcome the fear of math. Here's a heartwarming story of a Sheperd boy who turned into a acheiver because his teacher and family believed that education is important.

No One Went to School

If collaboration needs a poster child, here is Anand (name changed), an unspoilt, unlettered shepherd boy who went on to secure a coveted spot at a Gram Panchayat Mathematics Contest Akshara facilitated in his village – a full 100%, a first prize and a commendation certificate for proud achievement.

In his family of six siblings, no one went to school. In his village in Dharwad district, scanty, worn thin by poverty, almost everyone reared sheep, and that was what Anand was meant to do, his father Siddappa ruled. Siddappa was strict in his beliefs. Besides, why would his children need school? It was superfluous, life’s matters lay elsewhere. Earning a livelihood, supporting a large family – issues that mattered. 

So every day, Anand, the youngest, grazed sheep, and he enjoyed it, till one day when he was nine years old, providence decided to play a benevolent hand. One of his elder sisters fell ill. She lived with her husband in Gadag district, a bigger village, slightly more developed and less remote than Javoor. Anand, well-schooled in household ways, was promptly despatched as caregiver.

School for the First Time

It so happened that the Department of Education was conducting its Dakhlati Andolana, or Enrolment Drive. The Cluster Resource Person (CRP), a progressive education official, seeing that Anand was at home one day, landed at his doorstep, orchestra in tow, drums, music and all, and requested his sister Devakka (name changed) to admit him to school. But Anand was a guest for only a few more days, she remonstrated. The CRP was persuasive and Devakka, coming around to the idea, put him in class 1 at the Government Lower Primary School in his village. 

His Teacher Shyama

School plunged Anand into mute resistance. He did not want to sit with his younger peers. A feeling of inferiority, of being valueless, overwhelmed him. He refused to touch his pencil. Unwilling and unable to acclimatise to a classroom, his gaze turned inward to the freedom of the open grazing lands and his sheep. Anand requested his sister to send him back.

His teacher, Shyama (name changed), was going to have none of it. One of the many proactive teachers Akshara finds in obscure government schools, Shyama rose to the challenge of educating Anand. She impressed on him the value of education, the self-esteem he would get, the future it would open. She pushed open the scope of his patchy concentration bit by bit, but more than anything else, she showered on the friendless and alienated Anand love and affection. Study for a year, she bargained. If you don’t like it, you can go back. 

Anand trusted her, so he listened to her, and gradually began to learn.

Nirmala’s Forward-Moving Ideas

Three years passed. By then Anand had adjusted with his classmates and felt at home in school. His sense of not being on par vanished. He was at peace with education.

Not that he needed another nurturer at this juncture. But Anand was in class 4 and Nirmala (name changed) entered his life, who, like Shyama, is one of those enlightened government school teachers no one hears about, full of empathy and forward-moving ideas.

She gently shifted the pivot, giving Anand a leadership role in the Mathematics class. GKA  is being implemented in the school and Anand was put in charge of the kit, a responsibility he bore dutifully, opening it, taking out the individual pieces of teaching-learning materials (TLMs), and overseeing the play-and-learn arrangements. When the period got over, used as he is to taking care of things, he collected the items from different hubs of engagement across the floor, packed them back in the box and stored it away securely.

Very soon Anand could identify each of the 22 TLMs by name. It didn’t take long for the next leap. He began solving sums with the help of the materials, got a working knowledge of the concepts. Without realising it, Anand was evolving into quite a Mathematics expert in class.

In Full Bloom

Then came the Gram Panchayat Mathematics Contest. One hundred and forty-five children from classes 4, 5 and 6 from three neighbouring schools participated and wrote a grade-appropriate test.  

Anand was the top scorer in the class 4 section of 48 children. All 20 sums in his answer paper were correct. 

The moment was cathartic. When the results were announced over the speaker system, Shyama and Nirmala could not contain themselves, they wept with joy. Anand was in a state of exalted emotion, crying and happy. Devakka and her husband stood in disbelief. The applause did not stop till Anand received his prize.

He is a young student in full flower, holding his Akshara certificate and a large red rose, still thin, still the innocent boy who came from Javoor. But taller, his face beaming with a simple smile of elation, his eyes bright – is there a hint there of unshed tears as the camera captures him?  

Partnership and Success

Anand wants to be a police officer, stop road accidents and take down illegal activities in society. He has a vision now of what his future could be. Javoor - does he look back? He might miss his sheep once in a way, but it is a life he has left behind for now. The Akshara team and he are good friends. He talks to them from his teacher’s mobile phone and they are motivating him and keeping track of his progress.

Partnership forged Anand’s success. Government administers GKA large-scale for classes 4 and 5 in primary schools in Karnataka. It is an Akshara programme, and the two aligned. From shepherd boy to achiever - victory that day belonged to the force of collaboration.


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Organization Information

Akshara Foundation

Location: Bangalore, Karnataka - India
Project Leader:
Asha Sharath
Bangalore, Karnataka India
$1,494 raised of $50,000 goal
12 donations
$48,506 to go
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