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Akshara foundation : An interaction with MPs and MLAs


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To assist the decision makers of the state to divert their best resources for the betterment of education, Akshara Foundation, through it's Karnataka Learning Partnership project(, has presented the MPs and MLAs of selected constituencies with three accurate, well-researched reports over the last eight months, one building on the other. It started with the first report on fundamentals – school and anganwadi demographics that throw light on the broad educational profile of the constituencies. The team followed this up at three month intervals with a report on the funds schools receive and their allocation, and another on infrastructure shortages in schools and anganwadis.Read this report to know the feedback of the Elected Representatives

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Akshara foundation : An interaction with MPs and MLAs

  1. 1. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs Interaction with Elected Representatives - Pushing for Change in EducationTurning the Focus on EducationFor long has education managed with little. Anganwadis without space or amenities – childrencramped in dark, air-tight places which have neither light nor ventilation, neither toilets nordrinking water. Schools that make do with niggardly provisioning – overcrowded classrooms,unimaginative teaching, absentee teachers, no sports facilities, often no basic necessities. Forlong has education delivered by government compromised on quality. • Education is a mammoth endeavour. Bangalore alone has 1772 ICDS-run anganwadis and over 32,000 children in the 3-6 age group; 1420 government primary schools and approximately 225,000 children. Government alone can be the principal actor here, the primary doer. Akshara’s is at best a support role. It can energise and activate, set directions. Get the ball rolling, do part of the doing.  Akshara Foundation has started an attempt to clear the deadwood in government- sponsored education in Bangalore and propel active participation in problem- solving by the elected representatives of the people. Only their writ can ultimately encompass and work.  Akshara’s District Facilitator, Srikanth, and a team of Project Coordinators are at the helm of an interaction with Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), driving a dialogue and pushing for change. Trying to overturn political preoccupation, sometimes a lack of will and ennui, and turn the focus on the pressing issues in education. It is after all the cornerstone of a nation. --------------------------------------“Our Aim is that there Should be Quality Education”Srikanth, Tasmiya, Bhagya, Anuradha and Mahadeva Nayak are vigorously trying to capture theattention of political players in parts of Bangalore and inform them of the state of education intheir constituencies, its state of deficit and disrepair, and the urgent need for action.  “We are doing this so that MPs and MLAs get a holistic idea of the anganwadis and schools in their areas, and their problems,” says Srikanth, District Facilitator. The team hopes to establish a communication channel with people’s representatives so that it can be a messenger of both good tidings and bad, highlighting the odd successes, pointing Akshara Foundation
  2. 2. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs the flaws that need to be fixed. “Our aim is that there should be quality education in schools,” says Srikanth.  The team has presented the MPs and MLAs of selected constituencies with three accurate, well-researched reports over the last eight months, one building on the other. It started with the first report on fundamentals – school and anganwadi demographics that throw light on the broad educational profile of the constituencies. The team followed this up at three month intervals with a report on the funds schools receive and their allocation, and another on infrastructure shortages in schools and anganwadis.It is part of a continuing series, a strategy for the long haul, of communicating, convincing andappealing for action. -----------------------------------------The KLP Database – The Source of Information  Where does the team get the information for its reports from? The Karnataka Learning Partnership’s (KLP) database is the source. KLP is a project incubated in Akshara, but it is a public forum open to organizations to post, share and use data. It is a global concept, an idea Akshara hopes will eventually stand on its own as an independent platform of sharing and exchange.  In the last six years KLP has amassed a wealth of data on education essentials. A structured and systematic build-up. The reports draw strength and calibre from this carefully compiled body of information, which is renewed at least once every year. It also serves as a handy tool when the team has to pull out specific details in a hurry to silence skepticism. --------------------------------------A Conversation with KLPGautam John, Head, Karnataka Learning Partnership, gives an account of what it is allabout. Q. What is the Karnataka Learning Partnership? A. The Karnataka Learning Partnership started as an internal (internal to Akshara) effort to capture geographic, demographic and educational data on a child-by-child basis and use that data to bring in remedial interventions early in the academic progression of children and accelerate their Akshara Foundation
  3. 3. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs outcomes. This information technology based method allows us to monitor and analyse the impact of these interventions in a timely manner, measure the effectiveness of the interventions and host a publicly accessible website to disseminate the information to all stakeholders. As of today, we have, directly or via the government primary school system, worked with approximately 800,000 primary school students in about 22,000 schools and with approximately 50,000 pre-schoolers in approximately 2000 preschools across Karnataka. The Karnataka Learning Partnership project has and continues to demonstrate its commitment towards showing specific, quantifiable and significant benefits along with demonstrated innovation and verifiable proof of accomplishments and improved educational outcomes in the public pre- primary and primary education sector in Karnataka. The societal impact of this has not been formally measured, but in general, strengthening the 3Rs – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic – ensures that children stay in school longer and leave the system with essential skills. The KLP project has grown manifold since its original roll out in 2006. The project has been unique in its approach for multiple reasons. First, by design, the project was able to track and analyse the educational outcomes of large numbers of children and measure programme and organizational efficiencies from the ground up. Second, it was conceived as a partnership and not as a single organization working alone, which means many organizations serving the same set of beneficiaries get the benefit of Akshara’s early efforts. Third, it has created a common database and our vision is to have a platform for multiple organizations working within multiple verticals to pool their data to better analyse correlations across programmes and geographies. Finally, in an ongoing effort it allows for the formation of communities around the schools and normalizes traditional information asymmetries to allow stakeholders to hold the system accountable and push for changes from the ground up. Q. What is the objective of storing data on education? A. The KLP project has given us a platform and methodology to fix ambitious long-term goals supported by realistic planning and sufficient medium-to- long-term budgetary allocations based on data. It helps us to: ensure educational progress; support equity for girls, disadvantaged groups Akshara Foundation
  4. 4. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs under-served regions by using granular data and not hypothesis or assumptions as the basis for targeting programmes and budgets; raise quality while expanding access by monitoring educational outcomes and functioning as a partnership; ensure that all children attending primary school for at least 4-5 years acquire the basic literacy and numeracy skills that they need to develop their potential by monitoring and assessing their competencies year on year. The project has helped us develop an overall capacity to measure, monitor and assess education quality. Q. Does KLP have data on all anganwadis and schools in Bangalore? Does it cover the whole of Karnataka? The private sector? A. As of now, the database is complete for all preschools and primary schools in Bangalore. Outside of Bangalore it has details on government schools and preschools where Akshara works or has worked. It does not, as of now, include the private sector but there is no limitation on that. The database does have SSLC data for secondary schools across the state. Q. What kind of data does KLP have? A. We have essentially three kinds of data. We have geographic data (where an institution is; what kind of institution it is and within what boundaries it falls); demographic data (which children are in which schools, what their demographic characteristics are); and assessment data (how they performed in programme assessments). We also have some amount of infrastructure data. Q. What is the source for KLP’s database? A. Most of the data has been collected by us. Some of it comes from government and other partners. Q. How often do you update this information? A. At least once a year. Q. Was it a painstaking process collecting all this information? A. Yes, it was. Q. How many years has it taken you to reach this far? A. Six Akshara Foundation
  5. 5. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs Q. What do you feel about KLP’s database being the principal source of information in this interaction with MPs and MLAs? A. I think it’s fantastic! This is exactly why we have been collecting this information and we are happy to see it have effect. ---------------------------------------------------“I want to make Mine a Model Constituency”Tasmiya, Bhagya, Anuradha and Mahadeva Nayak are Project Coordinators, all makingpurposeful headway, going ahead with a repertoire of skills in communication, persuasion, tactand pressure-building. It is not always that their strides are smooth. The going is often unevenand success not always an easy acquisition. • Tasmiya, whose portfolio includes 10 MLAs, has been forging her way through to the offices of K.J. George, MLA, Sarvagna Nagar constituency, and Prasanna Kumar, MLA of Pulakesi Nagar, places that are full of people, the women in the crowd a mere smattering. “I felt alone,” she says, but it did not stop her short.  On her second visit she noted that K.J. George had followed up on the anganwadis in his area and was determined to lobby for enhanced infrastructure. He perused the second report intently to know how funds are being spent in schools, and the third report on infrastructure had him express profound satisfaction with Akshara’s work. He constituted a one-person task force from his team for anganwadis in Tasmiya’s presence, spurred them to action, and told her, “I want to make mine a model constituency.”  Prasanna Kumar visited anganwadis in his constituency to assess for himself the issues that daunt them. His office called for a comprehensive list of anganwadis – 43 in his area - and the problems afflicting them and informed Tasmiya that they were appointing an engineer to look into infrastructure concerns. ----------------------------------------A Big Success  On the 13th of July Tasmiya had a surprise in store for her. In what turned out to be a coup, she had a call from Roshan Baig, the MLA of Shivaji Nagar constituency, a leader of power and influence. Tasmiya had been to his office with the reports and all three times he had not been available. She had left the reports with his Personal Assistant (PA), and her visiting Akshara Foundation
  6. 6. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs  Roshan Baig told her that he had read the reports and wanted to do something. He requested her for a meeting at his home office the next morning. Tasmiya’s efforts had not been in vain. She sat up into the night preparing and brushing up on data pertaining to anganwadis and schools in Shivaji Nagar. “So that I could talk to him with authority. I concentrated on anganwadis. I called all seven anganwadi teachers and ascertained from them their problems.” ------------------------------------------The Meeting  At her meeting Tasmiya informed Roshan Baig about Akshara’s work, its preschool programme, the training of Bal Vikas Samithi members who are external support groups of anganwadis, and showed him Akshara publications like the Bengaluru Report Card on the status of education and the report on Urdu medium schools in the city. He commended the nature and scope of Akshara’s work and the impact it seeks to create.  Tasmiya gave Roshan Baig anganwadi data pertaining to his constituency from the KLP website and it tallied completely with the details his office had. “Our data is never wrong,” she declared. “It is absolutely authentic.” Tasmiya then made him aware of the grievances in anganwadis and the redress he could initiate. As an example she talked about the small, shrunken space in K.G. Bydarahalli Anganwadi which squeezes 60 children. -------------------------------------------“We will do Something”There were questions Tasmiya fielded and the occasional doubter whom she confidently methead-on.  How does Akshara get funds for its programmes, asked Roshan Baig? Tasmiya told him of Dell’s three-year donor support for the preschool programme.  The MLA’s two PAs cross-examined her on the impact that preschool teaching-learning material can have on children so young. Tasmiya flipped open her laptop and demonstrated to them the characteristics of the Akshara kit. She instilled in them the importance of preschool education.  “Why don’t you provide the space for the anganwadis?” they persisted. To which Tasmiya retorted with unruffled composure and the accompaniment of much Akshara Foundation
  7. 7. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs natured laughter, “You are the government. You must provide for your anganwadis. “Where do we find space?” said one PA helplessly.  “We will do something,” assured Roshan Baig. He asked for a comprehensive listing of the six anganwadis in Shivaji Nagar and Tasmiya personally visited some of them to get precise information, which she then mailed to his office, replete with the challenges they face and the anganwadi teachers’ mobile phone numbers.  Roshan Baig further cemented this association with Akshara when he invited Tasmiya, as its representative, to the Iftar he was hosting in connection with the holy month of Ramzan. She attended and, at the function, requested him to visit Akshara. --------------------------------------Sidelights of the Engagement • Says Tasmiya, “People are always petitioning Roshan Baig for one thing or another – some personal gain or benefit. ‘Give, give….’ is the refrain. There I was, on Akshara’s behalf, requesting him to take care of the anganwadis in his constituency.”  At a Circle meeting of the ICDS Tasmiya attended recently word had got around of her role as spokesperson for anganwadis. Anganwadi teachers clustered, clamouring with her to advocate on their behalf. “They caught hold of me and said, ‘Talk to Roshan Baig about the spatial constraints in our anganwadis also.’” ------------------------------------Taking Forward the Dialogue  Bhagya takes forward the dialogue she has started with eight elected representatives, one of whom is a Member of Parliament, Ananth Kumar from Bangalore South.  She could meet only 3 MLAs with the second report on fund allocations to schools – M. Krishnappa, Bangalore South; Priya Krishna, Govindaraja Nagar; and Satish Reddy, Bommanahalli. They wanted to know the financial dispensations, what is set apart and what actually gets disbursed for infrastructure, and said that they would discuss the matter with the Block Education officers (BEOs). The other MLAs were all busy and Bhagya had to be content with presenting the report to their PAs, who are considerable influence-wielders Akshara Foundation
  8. 8. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs  Bhagya had better success with the third report. By then Akshara’s perseverance had begun to carve inroads and make an impression. Its message was getting across and most MPs, MLAs or PAs identified with its cause and wished to promote it.  Ravi Subramanya, MLA, Basavangudi, and Satish Reddy gave her the opportunity for a candid appraisal of the chronic troubles of an anganwadi. With her were three anganwadi workers and that made her commentary all the more forceful. Ravi Subramanya called up the engineer in his team to initiate some action. Both MLAs were unaware that such problems existed, but Bhagya says they are votaries of education, keen to do something.  The PA to R. Ashok, MLA, Padmanabha Nagar, commented that education is a huge arena and requested Akshara’s support in the overall effort.  “How accurate is your report when you say 60% of this or 40% of that?” questioned Ananth Kumar’s PA. Bhagya said, “Come with me to these schools and anganwadis and I will give you proof.” No further convincing was necessary. --------------------------------------“Please keep me Informed about the Problems in my Area”  Anuradha interacts with 2 MPs and 6 MLAs, but she was unable to meet any of them with the third report as many of them were away in Delhi in connection with the change in leadership in the Government of Karnataka. The PAs were supportive and appreciative of Akshara’s work and underscored the importance of the reports.  The PA to Veerappa Moily, MP, Chikballapur District, and Minister of Power and Minister of Corporate Affairs in the Central Government, suggested a convergence between Akshara and Vedanta Foundation, which also has a large programme in anganwadis. “We can all meet up and discuss problems,” he said.  Krishna Byregowda, MLA, Byatarayanapura, averred that he would visit anganwadis and promised action. “Please keep me informed about the problems in my area,” he requested Anuradha. ---------------------------------------“We will Take Action on the Basis of your Reports”Most of the MLAs in Mahadeva Nayak’s ambit of operations were unavailable; the PAs were,and they assured him that promptness in delivery would be the Akshara Foundation
  9. 9. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs  But in one high-profile instance when Mahadeva Nayak met P.C. Mohan, MP, Bangalore Central, he came to know that the first two reports had not reached him at all. The third report was handed over directly to the MP who took down Akshara’s website address and Mahadeva’s mobile number and said, “We will take action on the basis of your reports.”  The PA to Narayanaswamy, MLA, Anekal Taluk, informed Mahadeva that the MLA had read all the reports though he was too busy to grant him a direct interface. The PA to Ramalinga Reddy, MLA, BTM Layout, told Mahadeva that all the three reports came in for appreciation and said that he had been instructed to take down Akshara’s contact details in case he needed more clarity or clarification.  Dinesh Gundu Rao, MLA, Gandhi Nagar, has established a tradition of visiting schools and anganwadis in his constituency, an effort that he has redoubled after reading Akshara’s reports, making it a point to strengthen his understanding of the concerns they iterate. --------------------------------------What are the Team’s Challenges?  “Our challenge is that when we go to the offices of elected representatives they are not there,” says Srikanth. “Or sometimes we encounter their helplessness. ‘Why have you come?’ they ask. Or, “Why are you giving this to me? What can I do?’”  “We had encouraging reactions too, as with the first and second reports when they thanked us for bringing such facts to their notice and appreciated the quality of our communication material.”  “But when we presented the third report, at some offices they asked us for the previous two. It is discouraging when that seriousness is missing.”  But now it is making a comeback. Tasmiya’s successful meeting with Roshan Baig is an example.” -------------------------------------Action on the Ground  “The next step will be to get our MPs and MLAs to take action. Only they can do that,” says Akshara Foundation
  10. 10. An Interaction with MPs and MLAs • MLAs like B.N. Vijaykumar of Jayanagar constituency, R. Ashok and Ravi Subramanya are an emerging ray of hope, proactive leaders of the people, with Akshara’s list of anganwadis in hand, seeing what they can do, how they can make an impact, an imprint, in education. • Ravi Subramanya has initiated the construction of a building for Srinagara Anganwadi from his MLA’s fund. • Whether it is change ushered in by Akshara’s reports Tasmiya does not know, but new anganwadis are in the offing in Kacharkanahalli and Satyam Nagar in K.J. George’s constituency.  How long before this trickle of change becomes a wave of concerted action? Says Anuradha, “My feeling is it is not yet time for that kind of action.”  The thing is to keep up the momentum and the spirit, be tireless, and not let challenges baulk the flow. “Every month we should take MPs and MLAs to visit at least two anganwadis and show them what needs to be done,” says Anuradha.  “We have to follow up,” says Srikanth. “Keep at it. Put a small amount of pressure.” Akshara is invested in the effort. The third report is not the end. “We are planning the next one.”  Says Srikanth, “We have to understand that they are all busy people, they have other work also. But we have made an entry. The door is half open and we already have a foothold.” Akshara Foundation