Houston, TX: Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF) hosted its annual International Conference in virtual mode from September 11-14 with 600 registrants from USA, Canada, India and Australia. More than the achievements, the multiple agenda-packed meet discussed goals for the holistic development in 102,000 Indian villages where it has intrinsic presence.
Although rooted in education, Ekal in recent years has blossomed into healthcare, integrated village development, digitization, farming research and socio-economic empowerment. From this perspective, the conference was a game-changer.
Until now, Ekal had been tenaciously eradicating illiteracy by imparting functional literacy to 2.8 million youngsters each year through one-teacher schools, computer-equipped vans (called Ekal-on-Wheels), use of tablets where possible and empowering rural folks by adult-education & skill-training. Having fulfilled the goal set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to establish 100,000 schools in villages two years in advance, Ekal has now embarked on a trailblazing agenda for the next 5 years, as informed by Bajrang Bagra, CEO of Ekal Abhiyan (parent body), that would revolutionize Indian rural life in all its aspects.
Among the goals adopted by the conference were to increase – ‘Ekal On Wheels’ vans from 25 to 85; ‘Integrated Village Clusters’ (30 villages each) from 12 to 51; ‘Skill Development Centers’ from 33 to 100; ‘Gramotthan Resource Centers’ from 16 to 27; ‘Telemedicine’ from current 120 to 6,000 villages and ‘Intensive Health Care’ from current 1,200 to 6,000 villages.
Ekal’s most ambitious project now is ‘E-Shiksha’ or digital education. It wants to spread it from 1,200 villages to 100,000 villages by year 2025. A new initiative will bring E-commerce activity to villages to provide new economic opportunities. These will be accomplished by rewarding farmers, empowering village women and providing necessary tools to the ground team.
Youth Leadership was a key section of the program. It carried on from the ‘Parivartan Kumbh’ in Lucknow this February, which assessed overall changes brought upon by EVF to rural India.
Youths from schools and colleges had brain-storming sessions to formulate their own initiatives: including getting connected to youths in schools & colleges, visiting Ekal villages, starting activities in slum areas, promoting ecological aspect and healthy lifestyle. This year, youths connected to Ekal-USA played an important role during the corona pandemic. They, not only, kept the home-bound school children engaged through their DIY educational campaign, but also raised funds.
PM Modi has said that, “no education in the world can succeed by giving up its culture and values”. Therefore, to prepare self-reliant and value-based rural India, Ekal has floated a fleet of ‘Kathakars’ (storytellers of India’s cultural identity and heritage) to reach out to the lowest strata of the society. From the current strength of 1,000, plan is to double that number by 2025. Its price-tag is $80 Million and Ekal-USA has been challenged to bear at least one-third of that amount. Suresh Iyer, President of Ekal-USA, and his Board have resolved to master grant-writing efforts to court philanthropic foundations and ‘Corporate-Wings’ for specific ventures. As a successful technocrat, Mr Iyer wants to introduce technology at every level possible to streamline accountability and progress of all projects.
To overcome the challenge of Covid-19 clampdown this year, Ekal motivated its loyal donor-base in a series of concerts and successfully raised almost 80% of the funds through them.