Empowers Indian Girls
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
Photo: Flickr

In 2001, the Indian Supreme Court mandated the implementation of a mid-day school lunch program with the explicit goal of feeding 120 million Indian children daily. For years, this program has been credited with increasing school attendance throughout India, as well as serving as a boon to a large malnourished population. This school lunch program has come under considerable scrutiny when, in a single day, two separate schools shut down with ill children-25 of which have died this past week. While politicians dodge accusations of corruption, many have made it clear that without adequate regulation, this program faces an uncertain future.

In 2001, the developing nation of India was, as it is today, plagued with undernourished and undereducated children. While entering the arena of developed nations was, as it is today, a major goal of India, the government understood that with undernourished and undereducated children, their goals would be harder to meet.

It may come as a surprise to many, but India has had a long culture of ensuring food for their young. Dating back to 1925, the Mid-Day Meal Program has grown from providing food to disadvantaged children of the Madras Municipal Corporation to feeding 120 million across the country.

The benefits of such a program are multi-faceted. On one hand, the program serves as an incentive for children to attend school and become educated. Where students don’t have adequate nutrition, lethargy makes learning near impossible. Through strict nutritional requirements, the program aimed to curb this issue. On the other, the program gives young children the nutrition necessary for healthy mental and physical development.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development reports “food norms have been revised to ensure balanced and nutritious diet to children of upper primary group by increasing the quantity of pulses from 25 to 30 grams, vegetables from 65 to 75 grams and by decreasing the quantity of oil and fat from 10 grams to 7.5 grams.”

Without any doubt, India’s recent economic growth has been impressive. Yet, despite the countries bourgeoning transformation into a powerful player, certain growth indicators remain stunted. With the United Nations Children’s Fund has reported that India boasts one third of the words undernourished children, programs such as the Mid-Day lunch program are crucial to further development.

With the events of the passed week, this program is under fire. In a matter of hours, 25 children from the Bihar state went from a health, happy disposition to vomiting, diarrhea, and death. Concurrently, in a nearby Bihar district, 60 children were hospitalized after exhibiting traits food poisoning.

After cursory investigation, the culprit was found to be cooking oil stored in a used insecticide container. With this revelation, charges of corruption levels of deregulation have been levied against all levels of government. Saurabh Sharma, a representative of New Delhi non-profit JOSH, has stated that “the government has no monitoring system about the quality of food”, he continues “the school principal will blame the private contractor who will blame the government for paying as little as four rupees [6 cents] per meal.”

With an incensed citizenry, many feel the program, or at least the breadth of the program will suffer unless adequate regulation is implemented. Without any doubt, such a program is absolutely necessary and absolutely zero patience should be afforded to government corruption. India’s future depends on it.

– Thomas van der List
Sources: Unicef, MDM, Christian Science Monitor, CNN
Photo: International Science Times