Volunteers from 3 organizations, n-logue, Tulika and Asha are working together, combining their strengths of technology, high quality child-friendly publications, vision, and worldwide reach, to serve the children of rural India. In this report we present our collective experience and findings in equipping 13 villages with modest libraries. Our shared dream is to equip every village of India with a library that will allow children to think beyond the prescribed texts in their schools. The replicable, scalable, sustainable solutions explored here present another innovative path for Asha towards the UQE objective. We welcome all volunteers who share the UQE vision to join the action.
#1 – The Digital Divide
The fact that there are only 30 million landline-based telephones in India illustrates the disparity in access to communication. The widening digital divide is a serious challenge to the future of the poor and marginalized sections of India.
The vast majority of the millions of rural people need English language training to be able to profitably participate in the marketplace. Spoken English training is therefore in great demand but yet is not freely available to rural India.
Part 1 - Wireless internet technology from nlogue
n-logue Inc, a leader in wireless technology is committed to providing connectivity to rural India. The wireless technology developed by Padmasri Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala et al at IIT Madras, is being deployed by nlogue to bridge the divide. Focusing on the rural segment of Indian market, where traditional profit makers hesitate to venture, the nlogue team is actively working towards interconnecting 200 million rural Indians before the end of the decade. At the invited talk in the Dec 2003 Asha Conference, n-logue’s CEO Ponnapa quoted nlogue’s mission as follows: “ To significantly enhance the quality of life of every rural Indian by driving the digital revolution profitably”. More details about the impact of this technology can be found in n-logue’s newsletters http://www.n-logue.com/newsletter/home.html
Part 2 – Bilingual, high quality booksets from Tulika
High quality bilingual books, including the local native language and English, are essential to overcome the language barrier. Tulika publications, a leader in development of joyful learning booksets with expertise in multiple Indian languages, is already engaged in development of bilingual books. As there are over 500 languages in India, partnerships with capable organizations like Tulika are key enablers in the journey towards UQE. Tulika is a socially conscious organization that is well known to Asha through their participation in producing the high quality Asha calendars. Tulika’s CEO Radhika Menon is committed to empowering rural children of India.
Part 3 – Integrated approach for replicable, scalable, sustainable solutions
Team work from volunteers of nlogue, Tulika & Asha was explored and leveraged to demonstrate functioning libraries in 13 villages as a proof of concept. Asha Sanjay of n-logue sparked the vision by highlighting the need for libraries in rural villages. Asha stars Akhil Nigam, Srinivas Adavikonalu, Chandrika Nimmagadda supported the cost of 14 booksets. Radhika Menon of Tulika with her deep expertise in the publishing world, anchored the assembling of books, taking into account all inputs. Anjana Badrinarayanan, a young Asha steward assisted by Asha volunteers Jeba, Sathyapriya, Dhanalakshmi, DP, mingled with the children in the libraries to find out effective ways for Asha to intervene and facilitate a decisive difference.
IV. Key Milestones of Project Library – 30,000 feet view 1Q2002 – Introduction
N-logue sends invitation to Asha for collaboration
4Q2002 - Asha volunteers meet with Prof Jhun at IIT, Madras/Chennai
Prof. Jhun suggests Asha to be a key partner for education-centric activities of n-logue kiosks. He further advises we pick up English language as a first focus area in some kiosks. Three action items are identified for Asha to focus on (i) Supporting development of spoken English module (ii) Development of quality education content in digital form (iii) Delivering high quality booksets to n-logue kiosks
2Q2003 - Asha, Tulika, n-logue synergy
Asha volunteers take up the booksets action item. The goal - to demonstrate tangible results of nlogue-Asha teamwork quickly and move the education mission forward. Asha invites Tulika, a publisher of high quality books, to collaborate with n-logue. Radhika Menon, Asha Sanjay help define the first bookset. 100 books, fifty of them in English and fifty in local language (Tamil), become the first Asha bookset costing $65. Asha Stars Akhil Nigam, Srinivas Adavikonalu, Chandrika Nimmagadda support the cost of ~$1000 for 15 booksets.
Prof. Jhun visits USA and 14 volunteers from different parts of USA and Germany attend the call to hear about Prof. Jhun’s vision and opportunities to work with n-logue. When asked how Asha volunteers are doing in the nlogue-Asha partnership, he said, “We continue to see very serious commitment from Asha. We see you as a strong partner pushing dreams through. In the end it is our collective dream. We must all work together.”
3Q2003 - Youngest Asha Steward joins; Anjana Badrinarayanan, a 12th standard student from Padma Seshadri high school, Chennai, (and a Global Young Leader Conference, Washington DC, invitee) identified as the steward from Asha Chennai. Anjana meets Radhika and Asha Sanjay to get acquainted with booksets. She discusses with other volunteers and comes up with some new ideas about adding science books in the next round along with study cards that are less intimidating and more inviting to young students.
4Q2003, 1Q2004 – Site Visits to 2 n-logue kiosks
Nellikuppam, Vidaiyur villages are 2 of 13 villages chosen for site visits. Joyful impact of libraries confirmed.
2Q2004 – Project Library Phase II work begins
While improving the quality of impact in existing 13 libraries, ongoing work includes sharing the learning with other interested Asha project stewards interested in creating their own libraries in their respective projects. Asha, nlogue, Tulika representatives working together to scale up the impact systematically by creating more libraries in suitable project sites. Bilingual materials in other Indian languages such as Telugu, Manipuri, Hindi, Marathi being actively explored.
V. Reaching out to 13 villages – 3000 feet view Villages in India typically don’t have libraries. Most schools typically have poor infrastructure, and are devoid of any reading materials apart from the prescribed texts. The resources the rural children require include:
1. Story books in regional language for all ages
2. Story and picture books in English at the beginners level
3. Bilingual story books (eg. Mala's day)
4. Children's interactive CDs (Azim Premji foundation has some; Asha for Education must explore collaborating with them)
5. Dictionary, quiz books, encyclopedias (with plenty of pictures)
6. Charts to hang on the wall (eg. world map, India map)
7. Board games (eg. chess, master mind, scrabble)
8. Weekly projects (science/social science)
9. New stories and experiments to do each week (refreshed each week at the children’s website at nlogue server)
10. Interesting puzzles, work cards etc (laminated)
As an initial step towards meeting these needs, Asha supported booksets were delivered to n-logue’s Chiraag Internet kiosks in the following 13 villages in Tamilnadu.