According to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), 62.1 million children in India do not attend school. Of children between the ages of 6 and 14, only half attend school. Within that age group, 53 percent of girls are illiterate. In India, the persistent drop in attendance of girls in school perplexes many, but also encourages a few. Going to School is a creative nonprofit trust that empowers Indian girls and children through the creation of digital games and books to educate them and help them establish new skills. These abilities will help the children navigate the world around them.
Going to School emerged in 2003 when Lisa Heydlauff traveled India with Nitin Upadhye. During their travels, Lisa recorded their experience with children who went to school in a tent in the middle of the desert. Lisa turned her experience into a children’s book, which later became the inspiration behind the Going to School nonprofit.
Graphic novels, apps, movies, television shows and digital games are just a few things Going to School creates with its “design-driven stories.” Working with government school systems, Going to School provides teachers with the skills necessary to spread their stories. Aside from being teachers, the Going to School nonprofit is a diverse team of writers, designers, artists, educationists and economists. Going to School also has printed over one million children’s books and games, ensuring that over 300,000 children have access to entrepreneurial skills.
Unique Stories and Projects
This creative nonprofit empowers Indian girls through a variety of projects such as Luna’s Stories, Girl Star and The Children’s Scrappy News Service. Luna’s Stories is a series of 10 stories that follow Luna, a young, curious and creative girl who attends school in India. Using small animated movies to introduce the adventurous explorer, Luna inspires over 100,000 girls who live in Bihar and Jharkhand, India. In addition to Luna’s Stories, girls receive a skill challenge project and a game that demonstrates Luna’s skills and traits.
Girl Star, composed of 15 children’s stories, movies and radio shows, focuses on extraordinary girls. These stories encourage girls to attend school by teaching them about unconventional careers, such as beekeeping. Seen by over 100 million people, Girl Stars continues to empower girls today. Kids run the Children’s Scrappy News Service for kids. The platform provides children with a voice as they take on and solve problems in the world. The children learn a variety of skills, such as writing, communicating, editing and filming. Government schools show the Children’s Scrappy News Service fueled by scrapbooks made of recycled material.
Helping Children Develop Lifelong Skills
Going to School empowers Indian girls and children by not only providing them with the skillset needed to succeed in school but also the knowledge and drive to put those skills to the test later in life. In April 2018, Going to School launched its Girl’s Guide to 21st Century India project, upon the American Jewish World Service’s request. Tasked with creating a “feminist-economics toolkit,” the questions revolve around 10,000 girls’ submissions. The toolkit provides girls and young women with answers ranging from everything they need to stay in school, including voting and mental health.
There is also hope for the young entrepreneurs who live in poverty through the Be!Fund. The Be!Fund is India’s first nonprofit risk capital fund for 18-29 year-olds who live in poverty. The Be!Fund asks these young people to submit business ideas that could solve an issue where they live. Through the Be!Fund’s partnership with Going to School, more children have better access to education, a brighter future and a chance to change the world.
In 2016, Going to School won the HCL Grant, which will go towards introducing 300 Be! Schools to government schools. The HCL Grant, created by the HCL Foundation, supports and strengthens NGOs. From classes eight and nine, 30,000 students will learn valuable life skills through Going to School’s interactive storytelling lessons. The grant will also train 600 government school teachers to teach interactive storytelling classes.
The creative nonprofit plans to release new material and stories during the summer of 2020. It is evident, however, that its unique take on learning will continue to empower Indian school girls for many years after graduating.
– Emily Beaver