“How many of you are acute victims of stage fear? Sweaty palms, quivering voice and racing heartbeat? More often than not, you feel you can’t speak up in spite of knowing the topic thoroughly?”, said Rajesh, a student of B.Tech in Computer Science Engineering from Andhra Pradesh, also the founder of Saakshar.
What is Saakshar?
“I wanted to bring about a change and the education sector is one area where there is a lot of scopes. The youth can actually bring about a change by dedicating just the weekend for our less fortunate brothers,” said Rajesh, when The Logical Indian asked him what motivated him to embark as a changemaker in the social sector.
Saakshar is a one-year-old organisation working in close quarters with children from government primary schools. Rajesh, someone with acute stage fear, found it difficult to cope with anxiety while speaking in a forum. It didn’t take him much time to realise that similar problems are faced by the children from primary schools. In spite of getting a basic education, most of the children are ill-equipped, they can’t solve basic arithmetic sums and lack communication skills. Often they cannot communicate or participate in classroom activities and are shy to speak up. They face troubles while introducing themselves to new people. The fear not being able to speak in a public forum often hinders their holistic growth.
This is when he decided to bring in models of intervention at a small-scale. It all started in December 2016 when a pilot project was launched across five government primary schools in Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh. The idea was to groom the children in a way where they can grow up to be more confident and not face struggles. The pilot project involved makeover for the classrooms in these schools and creating a better space for learning so that the kids could retain more and can speak up in public spaces.
Saakshar is a completely volunteer-based initiative. Volunteers visit schools over the weekends and they teach fundamental arithmetic, communication and life skills. They prepare a curriculum based on communication skills which would help these kids in the long run. They kept on conducting informal classes throughout the past academic year in primary schools and the results have been extremely inspiring. By the end of the academic year, a drastic change could be seen among the children. They were more confident and they hardly faced problems in communicating and actively participated in classroom discussion as well.
Ashoka has selected Rajesh for their youth change-makers program called Youth Venture. The venture identifies, supports and integrates the change-makers with new ideas and initiatives by connecting social, business, financial and university leaders to build an “eco-system” of initiatives that solve the fast-growing social needs of the world.
How does Saakshar work?
The schools are approached by Saakshar and its team of dedicated volunteers. Till date, they have received permission from five primary schools in Andhra Pradesh. They eventually transform the schools to make them more inviting for the students. Colourful charts, illustrations are used to transform the classroom. “In the end of the year, one of the headmistresses of these schools have praised us at the district level school meeting, saying Saakshar has helped in bringing a positive development of the children and that Saakshar cares much more about the school than the local villagers do. They’ve helped the school grow.,” said Rajesh. The process of intervention is quite simple, says Rajesh. The whole model of how Saakshar works in primary schools can be described in one line, “Give two hours per week to one primary school for an academic year and educate, transform a school.”
Saakshar has officially registered itself as an NGO in May and the core team now has expanded to four members, Vamsikrishna, Durga Sarvani, and Ramani. Saakshar currently has a wide base of eighty volunteers who work in batches with different primary schools on Saturdays. The prepared curriculum is implemented and it helps in unleashing the creativity of the children. They use laptops to show videos and children are asked to narrate the stories. These activities help the kids in brainstorming and push their boundaries so that they can perform well under pressure.
Saakshar also takes up other programs that help in bringing about diversity in the arena of learning. They take up projects like “Wish Tree”. Most of these children come from underprivileged backgrounds and hardly any of their wishes get fulfilled. Wish Tree is one drive where all the volunteers get together for a fundraising event and with the help of the collected donation, small gifts are given to the students. Such drives mostly take place in colleges. Saakshar will spread its wings to Navi Mumbai and New Delhi.
Upon asking about his message for the readers at The Logical Indian, Rajesh said, “The youth plays a huge role in initiating the changes which they want to bring about in the society. It is important that we shoulder these responsibilities and put in efforts to bring the change which we want to see in the society. The most important tool of change is education. Let’s all try our bit to give back to the society in however way we can.” The Logical Indian community wholeheartedly applauds the efforts taken up by Rajesh and his team at Saakshar. He is an inspiration for all of us.
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