VIDYA is a registered non-profit organization dedicated to community development and empowerment of India’s socially disadvantaged children, youth and women. A chance encounter of Mrs. Rashmi Misra (founder chairperson) with a little girl playing near a nullah was the inspiration behind VIDYA. Right in the backyard of IIT Delhi, a world renowned institute of higher learning was this little girl and her friends who did not have a school to go to. She began to teach them in her veranda and very soon she had a large group on her hands. This was in 1985. Soon after she recruited IIT volunteers and began to teach them basic Hindi and Maths and thus VIDYA was founded. In it’s silver jubilee year, VIDYA today is a multi-layered program which benefits lesser privileged women and children in Delhi and Mumbai. These programs are as follows:
- Remedial and Holistic education at pre-school, primary and secondary level.
- Open Schooling through NIOS for droupout youth.
- Adult Literacy and Capacity Building of girls and women through vocational skill training and livelihood programs.
- Computer Skills Training
- Income Generation Programs including Micro-Credit Programs.
VIDYA’s Mumbai chapter began in April 2001 on the IIT Mumbai Campus. It runs it’s programs on the campus and in the surrounding slum areas of Powai. It works for the sustainable development of lesser privileged communities of Powai. It runs six indegenously developed programs imparting education and exposure to skills. These programs are run by professionals and volunteers although they are primarily volunteer driven. Here is an overview of their core programs:
NSS Sanganak Vidya Kendra (NSVK): This is the computer literacy center run in collaboration with IIT and offers 3 month courses in BCA (Basic Computer Applications) as well as advanced courses in web designing, java and C++. This program benefits children from lesser privileged communities, housewives, school children and community women. Every 3 months 150 people are getting computer literate and this creates new opportunities for them either at the workplace or at school/college. Orginally started with 4 donated computers and a small group of students, this unit has gained from strength to strength and today has 30 computers, 2 full time teachers and a large group of IIT student volunteers. The curriculum followed has been developed by the Computer Science Department of IIT.
National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS): This is an educational program for the drop out youth and adults from Class VIII to Class XII. Classes are conducted in IIT premises during the evenings to allow people to attend them after their working hours. Response to this program has been phenomenal with 300 students in the batch of 2008-09.
Remedial Education Programs: VIDYA runs three remedial education programs in an around the IIT Campus. These programs help close to 350 primary and secondary municipal school children to perform to the best of their potential in an inclusive environment on the holistic education of a child. The aim is to provide enrichment to fast paced learners and help those who are challenged. Extra curricular and creative activities are an integral part of the program and there is a strong emphasis on value education.
Umang: This is a program for children from Class III to Class IX. Classes take place in IIT’s Campus School in the afternoons. 110 children from different communities enrolled in the year 2008. Over and above the regular program, there is a Spoken English Program, a Nutrition Program and a Saturday Club for recreation.
Community Outreach Program – Phule Nagar: This program has been established in the slum community of Phule Nagar since 2002. Education is enhanced by games and activities, as well as regular field trips.
Pragati Kendra – Gautam Nagar: This program is based in Gautam Nagar, a slum community located behind Hiranandani Hospital. This is a new program which begam in the year 2008 with 60 students and run by an NIOS graduate. There is also a Computer Center set up in association with Syntel in this particular community.
Vidya Margam: Women and girls from the slums of IITB are the main beneficiaries of this program. The program emphasizes on education, capacity building, vocational skill training and income generation opportunities so that they may develop confidence and become financially independent. It has 2 units: Aahar, the food unit and Udyogini, the handicrafts unit.
Aahar: It is a food unit which began with a team of 5 and has now expanded to 30 women working together to provide wholesome home cooked food to schools and offices around IITB during the lunch hours. They operate out of the space provided to them by the Women’s Club on the campus. All the women are the wives of class 3 and class 4 staff of IITB and this gives them the chance to earn and transform their family lives as well as their community.
Udyogini: ‘Udyogini’ literally means woman entrepreneur and that is exactly what this program aims to create. This provides an opportunity to learn new vocational skills such as making books, diaries, diyas, jute bags, lamp shades, paper bags, photo frames etc and supplement their household income by marketing these products. Workshops in traditional art forms like Madhubani and Warli painting are also conducted. In the past 7 years, 300 girls and women have benefitted from this program.
That, in esence is what VIDYA is all about. It is a people’s movement – people giving back to people. Volunteers are a critical asset and the core source of motivation and energy at VIDYA. Currently the VIDYA team is engaged in the preparation for their annual Summer Camp which is open to children across all programs as well as outsiders.
For more information about VIDYA log onto http://www.vidya-india.org