Project Akshardeeep works with 0-16 years old children for their holistic development, leading with the lisght of education. With a wide array of initiatives for the children in community as well as school, Project Akshardeep aims to lead the children from unprivileged backgrounds to a brighter future. Since its inception in the year 1998, Project Akshardeep has reached out to 1lakh+ children over the time.

Unlocking the full potential of every child: Building a promising future, together…

While Swadhar continued working for empowerment of women, the team soon realized that  it is essential to work with both women and children from marginalized communities to create sustainable change and promote long-term development. Education was an important issue. The children lacked access to mainstream education and learning opportunities. And thus began our work for children in the form of “Akshardeep” in the year 1998.

The very first initiative under Akshardeep was the ‘alternate school project’ for out-of-school children living in urban slums of Pune. The project has now broadened its scope to cover more geographic areas, different types of communities, and has incorporated numerous activities with the aim of encouraging holistic development of children.

For children’s holistic development, it’s equally important to work with their parents and families to get their full participation and support. Vikasdeep – our intervention for expectant mothers, caregivers, and the entire community focuses on emphasizing the importance of Early Childhood Care and Education and Development (ECCED).

We run balwadi classes (pre-schools) for preparing children for life-long learning. Often, the parents from marginalized communities are unaware of the importance of education for their children and the Right to Education (RTE) act 2010 which makes it easy for them to enroll and educate their children. We conduct RTE awareness sessions with the parents to ensure they understand provisions of the act and children don’t remain out-of-school. And in order to ensure their continuity in school, we conduct support classes for the 6-14-year old children for language and math.

The children need all-round exposure to excel in school and further their learning. We run a library in the community for the children to inculcate reading habits in them. A study center – Abhyasika offers the older children a space where they are not disturbed while studying. We introduce them to digital learning and computers so they keep up with the changing times and acquire new-age skills. The resource center offers them different ways to play and learn. Khelghar is a place where children can play, have fun, and explore a variety of educational toys and games.

Working with different stakeholders is equally important for the children’s educational continuity and learning. We collaborated with other NGOs and PMC education dept in conceptualizing and offering “Project Chetana” which focuses on training and strengthening of the Pre-primary education system, based on Aakar syllabus which advocates activity based learning inline with different developmental domains.

We established “Palak Manch” (parents’ forums) in the communities to increase awareness about RTE act provisions, both in Govt-run and private schools. This increased understanding has helped in forming pressure groups of parents and community members so the children face minimal challenges in schools. We also publish a newsletter – Jaagar focused on increasing RTE awareness.

Project Akshardeep works with different types of communities across Pune and has established Nomadic community centers to focus on education of their children. These nomadic communities live on the fringe of urban areas and need a deeper intervention for a better future for their children.

Training and capacity building of the project team is a vital aspect of all Swadhar projects including Project Akshardeep. Often, the grass root workers have limited education and exposure, and some need unlearning & relearning. Hence, we have created a comprehensive training module focusing on different aspects of the project. We have collaborated with experts in early childhood development to ensure its effectiveness. This training enables the project team to understand holistic development of children from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds. Focus on activity-based learning encourages them to adopt a flexible teaching approach with children at different stages of learning. We have also developed relevant tools and manuals to aid in the process. We aim to positively impact the communities we serve by empowering our team.

We have trained other NGO teams in our methodology which they can implement in the respective communities they work with. We have also collaborated with Econet organization which works with the Paradhi community to create these tools and manuals in the Paradhi language.

Over the years through different interventions, Project Akshardeep has touched the lives of more than 1 lac children in Pune and nearby areas.

Investing in the education of children is investing in the future. With Akshardeep, Swadhar strives to ensure that children have access to education and opportunities that will positively impact their future.