Saakshar School Appeal now closed

With great sadness, we have ended the work of Saakshar School Appeal this year. After the death of the founder of Saakshar, Asha Kumar, in Delhi last year and a whole year of lockdown, the Indian NGO Vigyan Vijay Foundation, which ran Saakshar, discontinued its work, and sadly we have also had to close. We are thankful that through Saakshar we have been able to change the lives of so many children. Thank you to everyone who has supported us since 2009, and to the dedicated Saakshar teachers and staff who worked with such compassion and dedication in difficult circumstances.

Please continue to remember the needs of India's poorest girls and boys for education.

In accordance with our constitution, remaining funds of over £40,000 have been transferred to the Delhi Brotherhood Society for their work with the education of poor children in Delhi.

This website will be closed later this year.

Ralph Williamson

Saakshar means ‘Literate’!

For children in India’s slums, the absence of education is a life sentence of poverty. In the daily struggle to survive, children’s education is often impossible as illiterate parents working long hours are unable to deal with school applications, and slum children who do start school face many challenges and often drop out. In Delhi, the Saakshar project for slum children helped them to take the vital first step into education, and supported them all the way through their school life.

Saakshar began in 2002, as the major project of the Indian NGO, The Vigyan Vijay Foundation (VVF), a small secular charity. With an office in Mahavir Enclave, near Palam in SW Delhi, VVF’s Saakshar project served the local Nasirpur slum community, and nearby slum resettlement colonies in Mangalpuri and Matiyala. Saakshar School Appeal was founded in the UK in 2009 to raise support for Saakshar and to promote its work in Britain.

Pre-School Preparation

Saakshar rented four small school rooms, employed ten teachers and several other staff, and prepared about 100 pre-school children for school each year, providing a year of morning lessons to equip each little learner with the confidence, understanding and social skills they needed to survive at school. At the end of the year they ware signed up their local government schools by Saakshar’s teachers. Saakshar also provided pre-school children with lunch, and regular medical and dental checks, as well as nutritional interventions. Every morning our four school rooms were full of the sound of happy children learning together, learning creatively through stories, songs and dance too.

Ongoing Support

Once at school, there are many pressures which might force these disadvantaged children to fall behind and drop out. Saakshar provided ongoing support, and every afternoon the four school rooms were open for homework and tutoring sessions led by our committed staff. Another hundred children came to these learning sessions every day after their school classes ended, to complete their homework, to get help with their studies, and both for tuition and guidance. Each Saakshar schoolroom was open until 5pm to help tutor older children. Additional English language and computer skills teaching were provided for older children at the VVF office along with vocational advice and support. Any of our students having problems at school or at home (most commonly, pressurised to leave school for work or to prepare for marriage) could talk to our caring teachers, who helped struggling parents to understand the pressures their children were facing.


Mentoring and Vocational Support

As those who have been supported throughout their education by Saakshar reached the end of their school life, Saakshar’s teachers and Coordinator provided mentoring and advice for them and for their parents too. We paid for a small amount of vocational training for the students we knew best. In recent years this included driving lessons, beautician training, and training in business administration. In 2018 two female students, Rupa and Kajal, completed teacher training courses, sponsored by individual donors in UK through Saakshar School Appeal. This was an outstanding achievement for young people from these communities, and they inspired others to study hard and continue their education. In 2020 a group of dedicated young women, who have either finished school at 18 or are about to do so, received extra tuition in computing and English every day, while considering their future educational options. Bubbly, below, is one of them, and wanted to train as a police officer. The commitment shown by these young women, with Saakshar's help, inspired changes in attitudes towards girls and women in their community.


Saakshar School Appeal in the UK

Ralph and Rachel Williamson began supporting Saakshar in 2003, soon after VVF started the project. In 2009 they visited Saakshar and on returning to UK they founded Saakshar School Appeal as a UK registered charity to raise funds for this vital programme. They gathered a small group of trustees and then with talks, interviews and exhibitions, meetings and special collections they raised most of the money Saakshar needed for 12 years. We are very grateful to our givers and all who have contributed at any time to Saakshar's life changing work. Saakshar School Appeal was run entirely by volunteers and had no costs. Ralph visited Saakshar each year to encourage its families, staff and children and we interviewed adults and young people and photographed the project to better understand the needs and to raise more support. Ralph's visits and the activities of Saakshar School Appeal were not at any cost to the charity, and all the money we gave and raised went directly to pay Saakshar's modest running expenses. Ralph visited Saakshar last in February and March 2020. Thank you for helping us to change the lives of Saakshar's children for good.


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