March 1st, 2002
UMBVS, the WAH project Srikanth has requested we submit as a project from Boston is being discussed this weekend. With WAH projects it is the responsibility of the supporting chapter to do a thorough review so that when the asha-wide discussion/vote happens they can assume that details (integrity, budget details etc.) have been taken care of and they can discuss on the more higher levels aspects of the project. That isthe goal of the discussion this weekend.
Under Asha-Boston --> files --> WAH projects I have uploaded a site visit, an accounts spreadsheet, and what looks like receipts Srikanth will upload more stuff or send us a pointer to a website so that we can have an informed review.
(note the files are under Asha-Boston for wider access).
March 3rd, 2002
Organisation in Rajasthan that has been involved with Lok Jumbish etc. After Pokhran, many international orgns pulled out. A component of UMBVS was proposed for WAH 2000 and is proposed again for WAH 2002. Sandeep Pandey has visited and liked the project. There was another site visit also.
Srikanth Voorakaranam proposed this project again for WAH 2002 but by Asha guidelines, a chapter has to propose a project. The idea is for Asha-Boston to propose this project. The proposal has to be submitted to Asha-wide by March 15th, 2002.
Land was allocated to the Dalits along the Indira Gandhi canal. Infrastructure development didn’t keep up with the population. UMBVS wants to run schools here till the government takes over. Schools were to be conducted in village huts.
The project requires about $20,000. $18,000 was donated in Sep 2000 through WAH but school was started the next year. Most of the money was for teachers’ honoraria. Teachers were chosen from educated locals who were trained to teach. 10 schools and 15 teachers were chosen. Details of the budget can be found on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/asha-boston/files and in the announcement for this meeting.
It appears that a single family of three brothers runs the operation. This is one concern. There is money spent on infrastructure like motorcycles, travel etc.
Venkat: Food for 30 days costs Rs. 5000. Light and water for 30 days costs Rs. 7000. We don’t know how many people are resource people. The accounts seem cooked up.
Nilanjan: Difference between last year and this year?
Melli: Expansion to more schools.
Nilanjan: Since WAH is the only donor, would the schools stop if WAH stopped donating?
Melli: Government will take over eventually.
Nil: We need to know when the government will take over and whether the project will be sustainable.
Mel: We have yet to find a really sustainable project. However, the hope is that the govt will take over eventually. Only exception is Sandeep’s project.
Mel: In many ways, this is a professional ngo since they have motorcycles and other infrastructure.
Nil: Projects should not be in multiple WAHs.
Mel: A discussion for this happened on asha-wide. It was decided that it’s ok to have projects in multiple WAHs.
Nil: When do we stop funding them?
Mel: We start telling them now to get sustainable.
Nil: We should not increase funding to them each year because that is not a path to sustainability.
Ram, Ravi: No school is sustainable because every school comes through govt money.
Ram: We could split the schools among chapters and each chapter funds a school.
Mel: That is possible but it is a logistical nightmare.
Ram: WAH itself is an uncomfortable concept because a few people vote on donating large sums of money. If we don’t want WAH, we should vote no for every project.
Mel: I agree. I’m all for stopping WAH for a year.
Nil: How do you select people for teachers?
Mel: It says in the document, a village meeting was held.
Dil: It does not appear that we want to support this project.
Ran: Do we feel comfortable voting on this?
Mel: I feel this may be due to the fact that we didn’t have enough time to absorb all the information. I will upload these files and we can go through them. We can have an email vote on whether we want to present this project to Asha-wide.
Dil: If we are against the idea of WAH, why present a project at WAH?
Mel: Because we were the project sponsors for WAH 2000 and we’re the best candidates to do it.
Nil: We shouldn’t be doing this out of guilt.
Mel: We didn’t take a vote earlier on whether we want to be a part of WAH.
Ram, Dil: Then, we should go ahead with an email vote by March 13th.
TASK [Melli] Upload files related to UMBVS and initiate an email vote.
Questions from Asha-Boston:
2. The numbers appear blown up, especially the ones outlined above.
3. One family in the villages seems to supervise the entire operation.
March 8th, 2002
I understand there were several questions on the Urmul proposal for WAH at
the last meeting. If you can let me and Sagar know, we'll try to get the
answers for you.
The proposal itself is at
(the second year funding is what is being requested). Urmul is working on
revising some of the budget numbers based on feedback from Raj Chauhan (from
NYC/NJ who visited them recently) and lessons learns from the first year.
I'd request everyone to base their decision on the merits and de-merits of
the project and not out of any sense of pity or guilt or obligation. To me,
Urmul is doing solid work and deserves to be supported on the basis of its
To provide some context, even though the project got funded from WAH-2000,
it was only in summer of 2001 that the schools got started due to delays in
sending the funds to them. So the only update that the group could have
provided us (which they did) in 2000-2001 was that they are starting the
process of teacher selection. After the school year started, I have been
persistently on the case of getting some volunteers to get the site visit
done (with requests to Sandeep, Siva, Sagar and Raj). Due to the remoteness
of the location, it took its time for these to fructify. Now that we have
got back enough by way of site visit reports, it is like any typical renewal
process we go through where questions are asked and clarified and if
satisfactory, the decision to fund continued.
I will work with Sagar and Raj on some of the questions and get back. Please
do send in any more questions you have. I will build a web page (with all
the information consolidated) by tonight and send the pointer.
This exercise will be useful irrespective of the outcome of any
March 8th, 2002
As we discussed last meeting, the goal is to try and understand the
UMBVS project a bit more. I have conveyed to Srikanth our discussion.
Whether its submitted to WAH or not, I would like to suggest that
Boston take up stewardship of this project - that has been a
bit lacking here (as has been for many WAH projects). If that
suggestion is OK, then we should understand the project more, and let
us try and see whether this can be submitted as a WAH project this
year. Files are asha-boston --> files --> WAH projects.
UMBVS-mails.txt is a summary of mails that has been posted on this
project recently on asha-projects. THey are ordered - most recent
mail is at the top, so start reading from the bottom.
March 11th, 2002
Let us try and get some of our questions answered by Srikanth, and Sagar and Raj who have visited the project ... I only got these questions from the minutes. I am pretty sure there were more. Could people who had questions, post them? THe material is all on Asha-Boston files section, so please go through them and post questions ...
1. Can WAH provide the money in time for the 2002-03 school year?
2. The numbers appear blown up, especially the ones outlined above.
3. One family in the villages seems to supervise the entire
Nilanjan, in the vote can you have as options: yes, no, and not
enough information. (instead of clubbing everything as no).
I am going to try and get an extension from the WAH 2002 folks. I feel bad that this project will fall through the cracks essentially because we were lax in getting reports and haven't had the time to read what we have.
March 12th, 2002
Please comment on using WAH as a continued source of financing for a project v/s a one time financing option. This therefore is not a typical project in that context. This is a project requiring large amounts of investment which ostensibly keeps getting bigger and bigger each year and no end in site.
Further for this project specifically, what do you think about the plans for this school to require less and less funding from the WAH process. The budget indicates increase in their dependence rather than a decrease. If the school fails if we withdraw WAH funding then in my opinion it is just a matter of time before WAH funding would dry out for this project. How long can WAH sustain this school and is there a really good reason doing for this? Are we temporarily propping up an idea that requires too much money and doesn't provide much returns--to the children and to Asha.
Finally, what is different in this project compared to other projects Asha considers that it requires special attention through WAH? Can you comment on what our funding has brought us in the past year. In general there is some concern of the scope of this project (too huge) and the results (not too many). Nothing really stands out in this project that justifies renewed funding.
This is my personal opinion and not that of Asha-Boston. I know you will disagree with me. So I am waiting to hear your analysis.
March 12th, 2002
I looked through some of the files about this project and here are the questions that I have :
. The fact that this project depends on Asha funding for each year is troubling. Our WAH guidelines state that we cannot fund the same project in consecutive years. We can manage this year because the project did not start in time and so it is not on consecutive WAHs. What about next year ? Should we take this project out of WAH and split it across chapters instead (probably still managed by one chapter) ?
. The total food cost for the various teacher training programmes come to around $2000. Is this something that we should discourage ? Why is it that we are talking about funding food only during training days and not on other days ? Is it because training is usually conducted in urban areas where the teachers cannot afford to pay for the food and this would cause them not to attend the training ? The reason I am asking these questions is not from the penny pinching
perspective. We can probably use this money in a better way (which I will write later in this mail)
. Why are we paying for rent for a room that belongs to one of the UMBVS staff itself. Does this indicate the lack of community participation if they can't even use a room as an office !
. The problem that these schools can never get Govt. aid is a serious one. The fact that the teachers are just not qualified not only creates this problem but is troubling otherwise too. Shoule we investigate if there is a way that these teachers can get a degree while continuing to teach ? Can we encourage to do this by providing additional stipend (out of the $2000 above !) for those teachers who opt to continue their education ?
I am not sure what is the comfort level for this project amongst the Asha Boston volunteers. If it is not very high (which is what it should be if we recommend a project to WAH) I don't think it is a good idea to propose this project.
March 12th, 2002
thanks for framing the questions. I attempt to answer some of them below (will put them down on the website as well). I realize that the best way to have discussed these would have been face to face at a meeting, but since that is not an option for me I've set up a bridge number tomorrow from 9PM EST-9:45 PM EST to discuss this in a little more detail. The number is
440-389-9715 (ext 351). Sagar will also join in. I hope a lot of the volunteers can join in.
Before we ask ourselves the question of whether this project has something special that it could be proposed for WAH, I would like to us ask ourselves an even fundamental questions as to whether it is has something special to be approved as a regular project of our chapter. Because a WAH project is like a regular chapter project but for the fact that its scale is much
larger both in terms of funds required and the number of children it is going to benefit.
On the question of recurring costs, there is a section in the WAH guidelines doc that Melli sent which says:
"Projects can have Recurring costs, and multi-year funding requests (limited to a maximum of three years). In case of the projects that have the FCRA, the money will be allocated year wise. If the organization has to apply for a one time FCRA, money for all the years will be allocated as a one time payment".
There was a substantial discussion on this point on the asha-projects egroup (we should have more Asha Boston volunteer presence on it), and the conclusion was that rather than exclude projects with recurring costs, the chapter should submit a proposal for all the years together. In case of Urmul, what this means is that the request could be for the next two years
On the question of long-term sustainability of the project, this is what the original proposal had to say and something which we accepted as plausible at that time:
"The situation after three years:
We hope to establish network between and set up an informal group of local persons that are interested that their area benefit from such education centers.
But the only long term strategy would be to enroll the local administration to take over from us, and building upon the work we have laid the foundation for, reach out to more and more children. We surely do not have and cannot access the kind of resources and infrastructure they have at their command.
So sensitising the Govt. towards the backwardness of the area and the its crying need, is what we hope to achieve at the end of this three year period".
Clearly, they had thought of this and had A plan to deal with it. The plan was workable in the old framework of the Rajasthan govt and is not workable according to the new policy. This is not something we could have anticipated nor could have Urmul. Raj had this to say about it
“Initially, UMBVS’ plan was to operate these schools for about 3 years and then convert the schools to government schools. This was possible under earlier government schemes. Few of the schools are already operating in vacant government buildings. However, with a change in government at state-level in Rajasthan the Congress-I government has introduced “the Rajiv
Gandhi Paathshala” scheme. Under this scheme hundreds of primary schools have been opened in Rajasthan. However, this scheme has also mandated that teacher of government have at least at B Ed. (Bachelor’s in Education) or STC (2-year teacher training). This implies that teachers in school run by UMBVS would need to have this minimum training. All the current trained
local teachers would be unemployed if the schools were converted to government schools”.
There was a point brought up about teachers being underqualified and questioning their ability to teach. I believe the true measure of this is whether the children are learning or not. It is clear from Raj’s report and Sagar’s report that they are. The Probe report has a section on the type of
teaching that goes on in the Marushalas of Urmul.
It is a credit to them that they understand the fundamental need of teaching to be child-centric.
We have had discussions and articles in the past where it was emphasized that a lot of the problems plaguing our remote schools is that the teachers are from outside towns and cities and even though they might have a fancy education degree, they neither show up for work consistently nor identify with the social background of the children. Also, organizations like TNSF,
Pratham have repeatedly demonstrated that even local teachers with class 8 or class 10 pass, with good training, can perform as well, if not better, than teachers with advanced degrees. I feel that we should be encouraging this trend.
March 13th, 2002
My opinions on some of the questions raised:
1) "One family seems to supervise the entire operation? Renting the room instead of getting it for
free." The situation is as follows: The operation is run by URMUL and the individual in charge is Madan Lal Sharma who is the education coordinator for URMUL. I met him at the village and he was very much involved with the running of the schools. The family you refer to is the
family of the Sarpanch, who has at least 3 brothers. Of this family 2 of the brothers are involved. One brother is the junior supervisor. The second brother is renting a room in the village to the project.The primary supervisor/ coordinator is Ayub Khan, who is not related to the family.
Although it is possible that the family or the village residents could give a room for free, the situation on the ground is that the primary beneficiaries of these schools are the farmers and their children who live on the outside of the villages in the desert they are trying to farm. The were landless and are mostly of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe classification. They are not the people of Mohangarg, and therefore I doubt have the high level of community support from the village. They do have the support from their own community of farmers, who are very interested in their children's education and are involved in the running of the schools, and from URMUL.
Therefore, for URMUL to do it's work, maybe, and we can confirm this, they need the Sarpanch's help and assistance. But the fact remains that the family is not running the show. URMUL is. With Madan Lal Sharma, and Ayub Khan as the main people. On the side, URMUL is getting the use of at least one classroom (that I visited) from the government for free.
2)"The results of initial funding". The measurable results are as follows:
a) 10 schools set up. The setting up of 10 schools includes, building the schools with the help of the parents/ community. Setting up the parent committee and getting them to meet regularly. Going to the parents living in their houses in the desert and encouraging them and educating them on the need to send their children to school. Actual teaching, where class is held from 10:30 to 4:30 every day, and the children attend and are learning. The teachers meet
together and create tests for all students to monitor progress
b) 15 Teachers trained. Training includes: how to manage the classroom, which means: tracking attendance of each student, steps to take to if student is not visiting, creating lesson plans, following lesson plans, monitoring daily progress, meeting with parents, documenting progress, testing students. I believe the teachers are capable and educated enough to teach the children in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. Additionally, with the excellent education structure (progress monitoring, lesson plans, etc) that has been created by URMUL, the job of teaching is less
complicated and more thorough.
c) additional infrastructure. Supplies for 10 schools and their students. Include books, bags, mats, blackboards, charts, cupboard for storage, sports equipment.
d) Monitoring system for each school. Ayub Khan and Magga Ram spend their time monitoring the progress of each school, including school visits. They hold meetings for all the teacher to address concerns and resolve issues. Teachers have this channel to resolve problems they cannot themselves.
3) "Numbers seem to be on the higher side" This may be the case and needs to be looked into. Someone had mentioned food and training costs are high. They may be. We need to look into whether they have a cook or are they catering? What is the cost of a meal in Pokharan? For example, at the initial teachers training (15 teachers) last year, the cost for food for 30 days was Rs. 24000. If we break that up, it comes to Rs. 1600 per teacher per month, or Rs. 53.30
per day. I think that is a bit high but by about 5+ rupees a day. In other words I'm assuming a meal costs Rs. 15, and so I would be more comfortable with Rs. 45 per day. But to deal with these numbers, we need to know what URMUL assumptions are.
I believe that we can effectively work with URMUL on the financial side. I don't believe that URMUL is out to cheat us. But we have to challenge them on the numbers.
4)"Long term funding": I think it is clear that WAH cannot support this project long term. As stated in earlier emails, URMUL needs to find long term sustained funding for this work. I will be working with them to make sure this happens.
5) "Long term planning": As mentioned in the earlier email, the original plan was to convert these schools to government schools. Newer information tells us that for that to happen the teachers need to be B Ed. educated or a 2 year teacher training course. So we have a problem with the original plan. The possible solutions that I can think of are a) either URMUL
hires teachers with the relevant qualifications or
b) we train the current teachers or
c) wait for the government to set up schools and then transfer the children to them and shut down the Asha schools.
Solution a: Hiring teachers with B Ed. or 2 year qualification from outside, and then asking them to work in these schools in the middle of the desert is unrealistic and undesirable. Unrealistic because people generally don't prefer to work in the middle of the desert. Undesirable because they will not be locals, and we significantly reduce the community relationships and involvement that we have now, with the teachers being from the local area. Solution b: This is a possibility, but we need to work out funding, feasibility, timeframe issues. This also depends on when the govt. is planning to get involved. My guess will be not soon. So we have some time to implement training for the teachers. We could have a staggered approach, where a few teacher go for
training every year, or maybe they can do it part time. Solution c: Sounds like a good option. But will the govt. start any schools in this area? and when? There are other solutions that can be thought of and implemented. The next step for me, is to contact URMUL and ask them for a detailed plan on what they think the long term situation should be and what should be
done about it.
In Summary, I think URMUL and the schools are doing a very good job at educating the children, which is the most important thing. Issues that are mentioned above exist, as issues do in every project, I'm sure. Some issues are there due to changes in the government policy, some are there because of lack of sustained communication in the past. But the fact remains that
the work being done is valuable and necessary in the area. We have had the fortune to get lots of information from URMUL (lately, when they were asked) and have had 2 informative site visits.
This information and the visits show that the work has produced amazing results, in my opinion, and overall the project is worth funding by WAH at this time.
Please let me know if there are additional questions!
March 19th, 2002
I created a website for the WAH-2002 Urmul proposal.
The QA section will be updated as we go along. It is a good start, but since
I culled this from multiple sources (some past, some present) there might be
some inconsistencies yet. Please bear with me as I try to make everything
consistent in the next day or two.
I sincerely hope Boston will come forward to take stewardship of this
project for WAH.
March 22nd, 2002
Based on Poll results Asha-Boston should recommend UMBVS for WAH 2002. The final vote was 5 for, 3 against, 3 abstain.
Melli-- Can you follow up on this. I will be out of town until Monday and will not get to send/check email