Lopa Gandhi, Founder of Ugam Education Foundation, felt that there was a pressing need to improve the continually dipping learning levels in rural schools.
Lopa, a 40-year-old with over 18 years of experience in the field of education, witnessed the problems and understood what could be the potential solution to these problems that existed in the rural areas. Lopa founded Ugam Education Foundation in July 2015, along with the support of friends and well-wishers.
Enhancing education in rural India
On her visit to Jharkhand, Lopa chanced on the education data of the state through a journalist and found that Jharkhand ranked 34 out 35 states in terms of quality of education and educational infrastructure, according to National University for Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA).
Out of the 25 lakh children in primary schools in the state, approximately 1.5 lakh children are in the Hazaribagh district with just 1,700 para teachers and 500 full-time teachers.
“Ugam started from a conflicting feeling of frustration with the education situation, hope and optimism from the belief that people and therefore situation can change, and a desire to work with teachers and children in rural schools,” says Lopa.
Ugam partners with teachers and parents to build knowledge, skills, and attitudes that lead to enhanced accountability and higher learning levels for students and ensure that children and schools in rural areas are engaged, energised, and self-respecting.
'My work with some of most esteemed organisations in India, such as Akanksha Fondation, Kaivalya Education Foundation, and Muktangan among others, influenced the lense through which I saw problems and potential solutions,' says Lopa.
Impact and future plans
Ugam works with teachers, parents, and students in rural government primary schools. The Ugam kendras or centres are in the district of Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. These centres run programmes for six days in a week, 2.5 hours each day in a local government school. Grades 2 and 3 are taught by two teachers – a para teacher from the school and a teacher appointed by Ugam. At the center, Ugam works with students to improve their learning in Hindi, Math, and English, while using art to engage them.
From trying to find a toehold in a new geography, forming relations with the local administrations, creating credibility for the foundation, Ugam has now come miles ahead. It currently runs 10 centres with 500 very enthusiastic and eager students.
“Our new programme Udaan aims to achieve this by collaborating with the local and state government. We are working in five government schools in the district. Under Udaan, Ugam has trained 10 teachers from these schools and shares daily lesson plans for math, English, and Hindi,” says Lopa.
Currently, Ugam is a team of 18 part-time teachers, two full-time operations team, and three part-time consultants for content and assessment development. Ugam’s reach is over 800 students and 30 teachers.
For the year 2017-2018, Ugam is planning to start working in 25 additional schools. Through their work, they aim to reach out to 1,800 children and 70 teachers.
For the past one year, Lopa has been a Tier 1 Fellow at the UnLtd India, a launchpad for social entrepreneurs which finds, funds, and supports entrepreneurial individuals whose ideas and passion can bring about long-lasting solutions to India’s social problems.
Lopa has been one of the 146 Fellows at the UnLtd incubation programme. The programme supports individuals and organisations at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys and has reached out around 2.5 million beneficiaries through its Fellows, creating around 3.9 lakh jobs in the process.
'UnLtd India's biggest strength lies in selecting and supporting entrepreneurs who the rest of the ecosystem finds too risky, given how early they are in their entrepreneurial journey! By absorbing that initial risk and becoming first funders (to a large percentage of our fellows), we are a conduit taking fellows towards greater opportunities. Our bouquet of services, whether it’s dedicated coaching, connecting to service providers, or opportunity of peer learning, ensure that entrepreneurs never feels alone on their entrepreneurial journey,” says Rupinder Kaur, Senior Director of the UnLtd Programmes.
UnLtd is organising its annual conference The Huddle, which will take place on April 6 at the Courtyard Marriott in Mumbai.
This year's Huddle, which is the third of its kind, will feature sector showcase panels where Fellows from the education, environment, livelihoods, agriculture, and skilling sectors will have a chance to pitch their ideas and organisations to some of the social sector's most committed and prolific funders.