Right to Education Bill was a milestone in many ways in the history of Indian education sector. However, there are many stumbling blocks that need to be cleared. Gauri Rane speaks to NGOs in pursuit of the goal of education for all. Considering our ever increasing population which roughly stands at 1.2 billion, the canvas for Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that work in the education sector is really enormous. Whether they address burning issues in healthcare, poverty eradication, population control, unemployment or human rights, there's no better place to start than in the corridors of education. “Education is both the means as well as the end to a better life,” explains Santanu Mishra, co founder and executive trustee, Smile Foundation.
A website www.ngo.in
, puts the number of NGOs in India at roughly two million. Another report claims that in India there is one NGO for every 400 persons. The numbers clearly indicate that there are enough people in India in all age groups, who would like to volunteer for social work. The need of the hour is to give them proper guidance. Mishra agrees, “Education, empowers an individual; it helps one in earning his/ her livelihood and also increases one's awareness on a range of issues while helping one to evolve as a person.”
Safeena Husain, founder and CEO, Educate Girls, an NGO, says, “We want to help bridge the gender gap in certain Indian states where gender issues are still prevalent. What can be a better way to do this than by educating and empowering women in these regions?” Fighting for girls’ education has great positive multiplier effect on other social ills like poverty reduction, child mortality, health indicators, domestic violence, etc., says Husain.
Husein’s organization recruits volunteers and trains them formally in villages “where we choose to commence our interventions.” The volunteers or ‘Team Balika’ as they are called, are the ‘champion for girl-child education’ in their own village. Educate Girls presently has over 1500 of them working dedicatedly in their respective villages.
Mishra explains, “Volunteerism has been part of every civilization and society. In broad terms it is the contribution made by individuals in terms of quality time, specialized skills, fiscal support, etc.” The social sector doesn’t require mass employment as it is only human to offer a helping hand to those in need. “People who are inclined enter the field on their own accord,” he says.
FUNDING: An NGO however can function well only if funds keep flowing in to take its achievements far and wide. While human capital is available fundraising is always a challenge! “Indian business houses are willing to dedicate their resources for a social cause but find it difficult to get the right platform to deploy funds considering the demography and diverse social problems of the country,” explains Mishra. Many a times NGOs work as catalysts that help the corporates in investing in social initiatives.
THE REACH: A successful report card of any NGO is dependent on how far its reach is and how many lives it has touched. “So far our NGO has helped about 59,000 girls from Rajasthan to enroll in,” claims Husain. The creative teaching techniques that they use have improved learning levels of about 6, 00,000 children. Development however, is a long-term and intense exercise. “You can’t set up a project with say 150 children and close it next year for whatever reasons. It will do more harm than good,” he says adding that NGOs should bring in more quality, better outcome and sustainable change every year. “As change begins to happen more beneficiaries hoping for a better tomorrow, will come on board,” he adds.
MAKING A CAREER: The development sector has really evolved in the last few years and is as much need of talented professionals as any other profit-making enterprise. Apart from engaging millions of volunteers every year, the development sector also employs approximately two million professionals at present, a figure that is set to rise by 20 per cent in the years ahead. This means there is enough opportunity for professionals with specific skill-sets, especially HR and admin, finance, programmes, communications, monitoring and evaluation, IT, etc. “There are head-hunters who specialize in hiring for the development sector,” informs Husain. Mishra agrees, “ This sector is fast emerging as an attractive career option.”
HIGLIGHTS AND CHALLENGES: However, aspirants of this sector should be prepared to face challenges. “Adequate funding and deep-rooted mindset led issues among societies are the two major challenges that we face,” explains Husain. On funds Mishra states that in India the giving culture is not so much inclined towards development work. “Aligning people having resources and people with developmental needs has always been a challenge,” he explains.
There is yet another challenge, says Mishra. “The biggest drawback of our sector is the lack of regulation and support mechanism, mostly in terms of financing.” Being a part of a noble cause must be very satisfying but the input is not always equal to the output.” There are also the highpoints. For one, here you have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others; you help empower people and make them aware of their rights as socially conscious citizens. One helps them make informed decisions about their life. “The satisfaction of doing something meaningful for the marginalized is the biggest reward in our field,” concludes Husain.