For what is the largest grassroots non-government movement in India, one reaching nearly 1.5 million children in almost 52,000 villages in India and Nepal, Ekal Vidyalaya has a seemingly small goal: to ensure everyone has an education.
It is the largest literacy movement in India with a presence in all states in India.
For just a dollar a day or $365 a year, Ekal Vidyalayas bring basic functional education to
nearly 30-40 students. Present in every state in India, Ekal’takes a holistic approach to
social and economic development.
One fan is Sam Pitroda who currently serves as the adviser to the Prime Minister and
credited with having laid the foundation of India’s technology and telecommunications
revolution in the 1980s.
“I have known the work of Ekal Vidyalaya for a very long time. I know what it takes to get
where you are. Very few people recognize what it takes to do some good work in India”, said
Pitroda, at the annual Ekal Vidyalaya conference held in Chicago. He had seen it all himself
when he pushed for a technological revolution in India.
Ekal brings basic literacy to children aged 6-14, ensuring they can read and write their
own language and have a basic knowledge of arithmetic and health. Ekal also helps the
motivated children find suitable schools and colleges to further their education. Its success
has drawn the attention of Harvard Business School students, who are studying it for a
operations and strategy class.
The organization has a large pool of over 500,000 volunteers in India whose selfless work
helps keep the costs low. The value of the volunteer time magnifies the donor’s dollar
impact almost four times. Accountability and transparency has been key to keep the organization successful for 25 years and it has won several awards for accountability and transparency. Every donor who supports a school gets a picture and complete information of the
school sent to them, and donors are encouraged to visit the schools they support. The
motto here: A dollar a day keeps illiteracy away.
In a Rampur village in the Madhubani District of Bihar, no girl had ever gone to school
until 2001. In 2001 when Ekal opened a school in that district, the teacher went door to
door to convince the parents of girls to send their children to school. Now those efforts have
“When Ekal came to the village, girls started attending school,” says Chandini, who, but
for Ekal, would have been illiterate like her mother. “Since the Ekal school was in the village
and the timing did not clash with household work, my parents
allowed me to join. I was very motivated to learn and today I am get-
ting a BA degree from a local college. I also work as an teacher in the
The focus for the past three years has been on ensuring the
schools remain sustainable. Schools over six years old are now on
the path to sustainability. Villagers pay Rs 50 a year for Ekal mem-
bership and keep the schools running. Currently, 36 percent of
schools are self-sustaining.
Ekal is experimenting with small pilots to impact the health of the
villagers. This includes nutrition gardens planted in villages, health
camps to tackle anemia, and an expanding micro-rural entrepreneurship drive.
Ekal takes your dollar further than most other organizations - and reaches places no educational NGO does. By transformng1.5 million children to be change agents, Ekal Vidyalaya
is empowering underprivileged villagers to become a productive force of change.
Ekal Vidyalaya has 45 chapters raising funds across the US. While 75 percent of the funds
are raised in India itself, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA provides the remainder of the
Pitch in. Join up. Become part of the effort. If you like the idea - or know a high school or
college student who would like to volunteer in either in the US or in India - please send an
email to firstname.lastname@example.org
To know more about the organization, visit ekal.org. Your donations - and your interest -
will go a long way to educate children like Chandini in the remote villages of India.
Making a passionate case for literacy
A32 Support a Cause Response Feature India Abroad November 29, 2013
Ekal Vidyalaya brings literacy to 1.5 million children in rural and tribal areas in India
Above and below, students at Ekal schools in India.