Yeoman’s service by Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation

ekalTEZPUR, Aug 12 – The women’s unit of the Tezpur chapter of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation has been conducting many welfare activities, including healthcare awareness campaigns, educational and literary competitions among students, and providing financial aid to physically disadvantaged people in Sonitpur district over the years. As part of the its service among the common needy people, a daylong free eye camp was organised in the Tol-Gereki area here in association with the Sankaradeva Nethralaya.

It may be stated here that the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation is a tax-exempt, registerednon-profit service organisation dedicated to bringing education and development to rural India. Ekal’s philosophy is to take a holistic approach to social and economic development. The Ekal movement is the largest grassroot non-government education movement, operating in remote and tribal villages of India. While interacting with this reporter, the founder of Ekal Vidyalayas in Tezpur, noted social workers Bani Bora and Kusum Tibrewala revealed that Ekal Vidyalayas operate innovative, non-formal schools which run on a nominal budget of Rs 50 a day, the activities of which are extended to provide healthcare education to villagers.

“Through development education, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation’s objective is to make villagers self-reliant and utilise local resources. It believes in empowering the people to establish ‘gram swaraj’ or ‘self-governance’ as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi. Although the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation was registered as a charitable trust in 1999, the concept has been in practice and refined over decades,” the duo said.

Referring to the impact of the foundation, they said that in 1986, inspired by the efforts of early Vivekananda workers, a group of young educationists began work with primitivetribes in the dense forests of Jharkhand. Notable among them were late Dr Rakesh Popli (a USA-returned nuclear scientist) and his wife Rama Popli (a child education expert). They refined the concept of ‘one-teacher school’ among the tribes of Gumla, Chhattisgarh. Two years later, Madan Lalji Agarwal established similar schools in 60 villages near Dhanbad.

“By 1995-1996, such type of 1,200 schools ran in Jharkhand. Jharkhand’s experiment with the school with a single teacher of non-formal education concept was extraordinary and the overall literacy rate in Jharkand was doubled, soaring the literacy rate from approximately 30 to 60 per cent, with youth literacy surpassing those numbers,” Bani Bora said, adding during the same time frame, health workers noticed a sharp decline in diseases caused by non-hygienic practices, witchcraft and alcoholism. Inspired by the success of the Jharkhand experiment, organisations around the country adopted the concept. Many organisations including Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra and Friends of Tribal Society have been the frontrunners in propagating this cause and have brought education to the doorsteps of neglected children. However, though much has not been discussed in the region about the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, it has brought about a movement among socially responsible people and in the last decade, organisations from all over the country have joined the Ekal Vidyalaya movement.

The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India serves as the umbrella organisation for various NGOs that run one-teacher schools in their respective areas. In the year 2000-2001, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India (EVFI) was established in New Delhi. The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India and America are working earnestly, hand-in-hand, to help raise the funds necessary to build 100,000 non-formal schools across the tribal belt by the year 2015.

Bani Bora who is also the coordinator of ‘Arogya Foundation of India’ a part of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, highlighting the activities of EVF in Sonitpur, further said that it was launched here in 2006 and since it’s inception, altogether 200 Ekal Vidyalayas have been established and in and around Tezpur town altogether 36 different kinds of programmes including health camps have been organised till date. On the other hand, in the free eye camp, 30 patients attended and cataract was detected in 11 patients who have their operations done at Guwahati’s Sankaradeva Nethralaya free of cost. The eye camp was conducted by eye specialist Dr Nirupam Bora of Sankaradeva Nethralaya.

Source: The Assam Tribune