As Nelson Mandela recognised “Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world” yet it is estimated that in 2020 260 million children globally were not being educated and millions more were not receiving a good quality education. This is particularly true for girls who are four times more likely than boys not to be educated, and in India alone 287 million people, 37% of the global total, are illiterate. While not every one of these people will be living in extreme poverty, almost certainly all of the 50 million people that are will not have been educated.
There are many reasons for this situation not least the lack of appreciation of the importance and value of education, especially for young girls and women. However, one of the major reasons is the shortage of schools and quality teachers. To address this problem. Sudiksha Knowledge Solutions was launched in Hyderabad in 2010 by two postgraduate students, Naveen Kumar and Nimisha Mittal, of the Indian Institute of Forest Management Bhopal. Their mission is to uplift millions of children from poverty through the provision of high-quality, low-cost, holistic education and to empower women through career development and entrepreneurship. To achieve this they aim to bring access and excellence in education to the Bottom of the Pyramid and to date have opened 23 schools in low-income areas of Hyderabad and 3 in rural areas. They have achieved this by raising some $410,000 from such investors as Village Capital Investment, Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, and the Eleos Foundation.
The schools are managed by educated local housewives under an incentivised profit-sharing scheme. The women, most of whom have no previous professional employment, are trained by Sudiksha to run franchise operations located near to their homes, thus the project is empowering women as well as developing the knowledge and skills of underprivileged children. Apart from offering pre-school and early education programmes, Sudiksha runs entrepreneurship boot camps and incubation programmes and has trained some 400 young people in how to start a business, while through its bridging programme 300 young high school “dropouts” have been helped to finish their schooling and become more employable.
The courses adopt an innovative, integrated approach that focuses on holistic development that nurtures logical and linguistic skills as well as general skill development. In total, some 5000 children have benefitted and 100 women, and, if coupled with Microfinance and more recent developments in Fintech, Sudiksha, and similar educational initiatives could create a most potent tool for the eradication of poverty (SDG 1) to which it is contributing already. At the same time, however, as a harmonious enterprise it is contributing to SDGs 4, (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 2 (No Hunger), and 15 (Life on Land).
It is not just the young people that are benefitting, however. As one female Sudiksha teacher put it “Never did I expect I would be running a school. It was the best decision of my life. I feel proud of myself – now I am an independent woman contributing something valuable to society. My purpose in life is to run my school in the best possible way and take it to great heights”. Such an attitude is exactly what is needed. Only by providing quality education, and making it available to everybody, will we break the poverty cycle. Unless we do then “ as long as poverty, injustice and inequality exist in our world none of us can truly rest”. ( Nelson Mandela, 2005).