Tuesday, June 16, 2009


B-school makes impact on these girls' lives
17 Jun 2009, 0531 hrs IST, Nandita Sengupta, TNN

ALWAR: The 15-odd chattering girls in the Islamiya Arabia madrassa are immune to criticism. For five years now, their parents have defied community
wisdom to send them to this school in Mahua Khurd, a dusty Muslim-dominated village 13km from Alwar. The girls, eight to 13 years old, sit straight. Even the youngest has a semblance of a veil thrown over her head.

Pinky Sahni, their young teacher, can be the envy of any private school. The girls are all attention as she goes through basic math at lightning speed. They cheer at getting the answers right and correct her as she frequently inserts mistakes to catch them unawares. "Khub maza aata hai," grins 10-year-old Noori, two teeth missing. Sahni's taught them a few good lessons for life.

Set up in 2003, this is Iimpact's first learning centre, an NGO created by IIM-A's 1978 batch. Today, there are 9,000 girls in 275 such centres across Rajasthan, UP, Karnataka, Jharkand and Haryana. Iimpact has put its considerable weight behind teaching girls not part of the ‘system'. "No dropouts, no secondary education. We target those who are left out of the system and have never been to school," says Anil Tandon, Iimpact's president.

When the alumni decided on its 25th year celebrations to ‘do something', girls education was the obvious choice. Its target is to enrol 60,000 girls in their five-year curriculum by 2014. The team knew doing the NGO grind was not the answer. Most NGOs work on contract. As a result, causes such as girls' education are pursued for a fund-driven period after which the NGO withdraws, leaving villages in a lurch. This simply wouldn't work, felt Iimpact. Iimpact's team put their expertise and networks together to create their own model.

"We partner with local NGOs to proceed on girls education," says Tandon, thus riding on a given NGO's credibility with locals and using it as a delivery mechanism. Iimpact raises and disburses funds, decides curriculum, trains teachers, conducts exams, helps girls get admission into secondary school and monitors, fine-tunes the five-year school package that every girl who enrols must go through. They are taught everything from maths to language to hygiene and civic sense, the idea is to make school a habit for girls and their families. The USP clearly lies in ensuring best management of the project.

"We are trained four times a year for 10-12 days each. We meet other teachers. Ek doosre ke problems bhi discuss ho jate hain," says Alwar-based teacher Santosh.

Going to school has indeed become a habit in neighbouring Moreda. A gaggle of happy mothers look on proudly as their daughters recite poems, read books and sing together.

Five years on, the centre has become the hub of activity for the villagers. The two young Iimpact teachers, from Alwar, engage kids to celebrate festivals and national days. This is where the village's community action is. "Instead of putting their angootha, a father takes his daughter along to sign.

It's a proud moment," says a beaming Shanta. The sparkle in the girls' eyes sure reflects India's shine.