by Prakash Waghmare
On September 18, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA (EVF) hosted a day-long virtual ‘National Conference’ with 220 registrants from U.S., Canada and India. Although touted to be a national gathering, Ekal-India had a sizable presence in it, along with some representation from Ekal-Canada. The primary objective of this conference was not only to review the scalability of ‘Ekal Abhiyan’ projects (an umbrella organization of Ekal’s various logistic operations), but also to align the aspirations of Ekal-America and Ekal-India for future goals. With the Covid-19 pandemic affecting rural life, this conference had the arduous task of remapping success milestones for ‘Mission 2025’, outlined earlier in Yr.2020.
Ekal-India team presented revitalized facets of ‘Ekal Abhiyan’, namely ‘Digital Literacy’, ‘Arogya Foundation’, ‘Gramothan Foundation’, ‘E-Shiksha’, and ‘Global Communication’, with a focus on the Covid-19 pandemic, skill development and economic empowerment. The host team along with Ekal-Canada was composed of members of the board of directors, working committees, regional & chapter presidents and the youth wing. This Pan-American team introduced the topics like innovativeness and accountability in capital projects, technology roadmap, fundraising targets, cutting-edge technology for project management, and youth involvement.
In essence, all the panelists pushed for a well-coordinated aggressive march towards the milestones of progress, pegged as ‘Mission 2025’. Lot of awe inspiring information about Ekal achievements came out in various presentations. Ekal-India, keeping an eye on the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative floated by the Hon. PM Modi, plans to showcase 35,000 villages as the ‘Pragat Sanch’ (progressive clusters) with holistic development that would incorporate digital literacy, health & hygiene, skill training, sustainable farming and value-based education. A small portion of these clusters would be turned into quintessential ‘Adarsh Gram’ (Model Villages), as a role-model template for the future.
Ekal is currently leaning towards launching digital technology at every level of its activities and operations. Ekal-USA, therefore highlighted the E-Shiksha methodology and the preliminary timetable to expand it across Ekal school map. As a dynamic organization, Ekal is perpetually broadening its base worldwide. With a newly established presence in France and Thailand, the total number of countries with Ekal affiliate branches is now 12. During the school closures in the U.S., the Ekal-youths not only helped to publicize virtual concerts with their social media expertise but also raised funds through athletic activities, talent shows and skills developing tutorials. Being socially conscientious, the youth earnestly took part in their community food drives, tree-planting projects and outreach programs for the seniors in need.
On the Covid-19 front, Ekal’s success in rural-tribal areas is staggering. Because of the aggressive safety campaign, herbal medications, nutritional food provisions and isolationist tactics that Ekal field volunteers vigorously promoted there, the pandemic’s effect on rural folks was minimal. Field volunteers countered the misinformation about the vaccine by asserting its benefits. This made possible a vaccination rate of 71% in some corners. While overcoming various hurdles unique to a village set up, Ekal never lost sight of keeping all its supporters well informed about the steps it was taking in successfully arresting the spread of the deadly virus. This flow of incessant communication strengthened donors’ trust in ‘EVF’. In Yr. 2020 Ekal-USA with virtual events raised $10 million, with $6.5 million coming in from the year-end gala. Their next virtual gala would be hosted on November 13, 2021.
At the conference’s conclusion, the host and President of Ekal-USA, Suresh Iyer, summarized various proposals of the panelists for ‘Mission 2025’. He explained that although the number of schools would remain the same at 102,000 mark, the number of villages for E-Shiksha (education through tablets) would go up from current 1,170 schools to all 102,000 schools; Arogya services (Healthcare) from 1,200 villages to 35,000; Ekal-on-wheel vans (mobile digital training) from 29 to 60; Tailoring centers from 33 to 150; Integrated Village Development Ctrs (IVD) from 12 to 31; and Gramothan Research Ctr (GRC) from 15 to 31. During the five-year goal period, 50% of schools, 15 GRCs, and 25 IVDs are expected to become self-sustaining, subject to third-party assessment.