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ATMABODH: A Student Initiative for Promoting Education

Sahil Pardeshi1, Ganesh Bhutkar2, Abhijeet Singh1, Pravin Pardeshi3
Student, Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, Pune, India
Assistant Professor, Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, Pune, India
Municipal Commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation, Pune, India

Problem of quality education has plagued India many years now and stunted well-known
Indian dream to be a developed nation. This problem mainly observed in children from
weaker sections and it makes hard for them to compete with other kids in this age of
information technology. This paper discusses the unique computer literacy program started
under the umbrella - Atmabodh, a registered national non-governmental organization
(NGO), for promoting not only literacy, but also complete education. Atmabodh has over
hundred student volunteers working throughout the year for the social cause of education.
Atmabodh volunteers reach out to the underprivileged children and raise their skills to par
level with other kids of their generation.
Atmabodh stands out as a leading organization with difference in the field of child education;
which was started and run by engineering students themselves. The paper gives the in-depth
account of its formation, its vision, the programs conducted and the future plan.

Atmabodh, Vishwakarma Institute of Technology (VIT), Pune, Computer Literacy,
Children, Student Volunteers.

I. Introduction and History - Atmabodh:
‘Atmabodh’ means knowing one’s own self. It’s a non-governmental organization (NGO)
registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860, dedicated to promoting human rights
and overall development all over India. Our patrons include Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer,
formerly Judge, Supreme Court of India, Gopal Subramanian, Senior Advocate, Supreme
Court of India, and Pravinsingh Pardeshi, Commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation.
Within its limited resources and drawing upon the dedication of its members, Atmabodh has
been able to accomplish some good results in advancing the cause of human rights and
development. We have helped reconstruct the roofs of cyclone hit schools in Orissa; prepared
booklets on prisoners’ rights in local dialects of Bihar; practiced innovation in promoting
legal awareness among different groups like prisoners, college girls; trained law students to
run awareness and legal aid camps in slums. Atmabodh initiated a legal services clinic at


What is Computer Literacy? 2 . especially of that of children. To undertake activities pertaining rural development and upliftment of rural masses. the volunteers are committed to inculcate in them. protection of wild life and to spread awareness about pollution and protection of environment as a whole. To undertake activities pertaining to preservation of the natural resources. 3.” Atmabodh has following objectives: - 1. The initial workshop with just twenty children became sign of hope that good. 6. 5. 4. II. through dedication and time. within two years. To this end. It was done with the focus on education for underprivileged children for whom computer literacy would have just remained a dream. The second workshop was a major success with over a thousand children from various schools participating in it. A VIT student named Abhijeet Singh who is one of the authors. The Pune Chapter has more focus on the education. As they say “Catch them young. no matter on a small scale can make a difference. The indigenous nature of Atmabodh’s Pune Chapter has allowed its number to grow over three hundred. What was started in one college has spread to four other colleges and there are more plans of expansion into place. To undertake multidimensional activities in the field of awareness and protection of human rights. We believe that we can have a better tomorrow if we target the youth. Abhijeet Singh along with his friends started this movement in Pune with a meagre seven volunteers.Patna in February 2000 by motivating students of three law colleges of Patna and orienting them for the work though an Orientation Workshop. Three permanent centres are now set up to allow the children to have a place to learn throughout the year. technical and social skills thereby ensuring a secure future. To visit rural areas and spread awareness amongst masses in the areas of education and health. 2. initiated Atmabodh’s Pune Chapter on 20th June 2006. To undertake activities in the field of preservation and restoration of archaeological sites which are the cultural heritage of India. Mission and Objectives: The mission of Atmabodh’s Pune Chapter is: “To impart computer literacy to the under privileged children in order to make them self dependant in a competitive environment. To provide legal services to victims of human rights violations and to the public.” III.

7 % of total expenditure. literate (in the realm of books) connotes one who can read any arbitrary book in their native language(s). In common discourse. Generally.almost 10. and large degrees of "hand-holding" will likely be required. Likewise.Computer literacy is the knowledge and ability to use computers and technology efficiently.) Being "literate" and "functional" are generally taken to mean the same thing. The precise definition of "computer literacy" can vary from group to group. Real problems can arise when such a "computer literate" person encounters a new program for the first time. to learn arbitrary new programs or tasks as they are encountered) to be central to computer literacy. (This is analogous to a child claiming that they "can read" because they have rote-memorized several small children's books. 3 . School Enrolment Gross Percentage Primary 116. The literacy in India is about 61%.e. looking up new words as they are exposed to them.51 Tertiary 11. however. an experienced computer professional may consider the ability to self-teach (i. The following table 1 clarify the complete picture. III. isn’t it? Imagine what India can do with that many educated people. Computer literacy can also refer to the comfort level someone has with using computer programs and other applications that are associated with computers. largely by rote. Internet Explorer etc. That includes about twenty-one million children out of school. Sounds simple. Another valuable component of computer literacy is knowing how computers work and operate. we still are unable to achieve results. Appalling. "computer literate" often connotes little more than the ability to use several very specific applications (usually Word. The Need for Atmabodh: India’s illiterate population equals the population of USA.) for certain very well-defined simple tasks. It could virtually solve all the problems plaguing us. But what about the next generation? The children growing up can be targeted to make sure that they grow up to be educated citizens. isn’t it? But despite enormous spending by government .76 Table 1: Enrolment statistics The graph 1 shows the distribution of expenditure on education per level. But having to conduct schooling for present generation is impossible at a large scale.2 Secondary 53.

In 2000. 76 percent of all children of primary school age (6-10 years) were in school. By 2006. and across all household wealth quintiles. Some dramatic changes have taken place in India's education 4 . this value had increased to 83 percent. Graph 1: Distribution of public expenditure per level (%) in 1999 Newly released data show that the primary school attendance rate has increased by more than a percentage annually since the beginning of the decade. close to 17 percent of all children of primary school age continue to be out of school. but it fails miserably to keep them studying as they grow older. Table 2: Enrolment and dropout ratios India does a good job of getting its children to start school. School attendance rates also grew in urban and rural areas. However.

They’re everywhere from schools. What We Do: As the statistics clearly show shocking number of children who will be the youth of tomorrow. Having young children grow up with computers is already happening everywhere. The traditional methods and schemes used to bring children back to educational mainstream. Children are naturally curious and creative. Computers are the wave of the future. These kids in a non-IT space grow up with a distinct knowledge disadvantage. we can engage them for language sessions. who have no clue whatsoever to the so-called technological revolution. We can use this base to encourage their creativity and dreams. Therefore. computer literacy is a must for the next generation. career counselling. There is a need to bridge the digital divide. are not too different. Enrolment has increased tremendously. Giving children a creative space is important to bring their imagination to life and to develop inspiration. Children. no matter what the background is. will not only empower them intellectually but also help them dream big. but also to those kids who have access to Information Technology in India. we require the organizations like Atmabodh. Unlike the bygone days when it was often necessary to persuade people to send their children to school.system in the past couple of decades. there are still quite a few. are out of school. From there on. Atmabodh can achieve this because the computer and the advances it makes for human civilization itself is an intriguing subject that interests people of all ages. 5 . today parents largely see it as a bounden duty. have failed. wide ideals and an active imagination that may constantly lift the them to higher and finer level. not only compared to the more developed countries. they’re not just a fad that’s going to disappear in a few years. What can be done about it? We feel we have the solution. while the youngsters themselves are busy working out different options of studies. Thus a need has been identified to bring the benefits of Information Technology within reach of underprivileged children. in and out of school. they are here to stay. Thus. The world is in the threshold of a new revolution where time and space will no longer be barriers for communication. Thus. Everywhere you look and you see some sort of computer. We feel attracting kids on a level they understand is more effective. We feel the methods we use. checkout line. The table 2 shows enrolment and dropout ratios of Indian students in 2000-01. but cannot capture the immense and universal aspiration for education that continues to sweep the country. to the grocery store. children together to at least some kind of vocational training. we can bring all the underprivileged. Atmabodh is trying to use this angle to get children back on course and at same time equip them with basic computer literacy. movie theatres and even in the shirt pockets of some businessmen. Official enrolment figures reflect this increase. And also the number of children staying in schools after primary education is abyssal. By the programs we run. IV. Government initiatives like free mid day meals are also not working. of which only a few are reflected in statistics. While many have access to computer. By attracting them to our programs is only the start. we at Atmabodh thought to use computers as means of attracting children to learning again.

At Atmabodh. their inadequacies because they see us as their elder brothers and sisters. Pune Institute of Computer Technology (PICT). The volunteers from other colleges in Pune like Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT). Our program might just focus on computer literacy. Pune: The management of Atmabodh continuously changes every year. are the representatives. a child has to be very intelligent and smart right from his childhood. VIT. Personality development can help one improve and achieve career goals. TE students are allotted the main management responsibility. which should be able to introduce them to new and necessary information. Hence there are stages of participation designed to ensure everyone gets the chance to do their bit for Atmabodh’s ideals. a 6 . An exposure. Our objective would be to help them recognize their abilities to build confidence. Pune has been hosting the high scale projects for Atmabodh. More over. This is to make sure the right people take control step by step. They feel we can understand their problem better than adults. In this age of competition. Atmabodh has over hundred student volunteers working throughout the year for the social cause of education. Table 3 shows the management section and their heads. Pune students form the main core of the Pune Chapter of Atmabodh. they supervise. but use that base to engage the students for personality development. Our objective would be to look at the training as an overall learning experience for the underprivileged children. The selection of management heads and coordinators. kids will be using graphics and animation programs that will allow them to utilise their creativity and imagination to the fullest. V. In First Year of Engineering (FE). which helps in reaching out to them. Once they pass out to the Final Year (BE). When they pass out they are most welcome to contribute in any way possible. the students are the main teaching volunteers. which is in best interest of the organization. Then only those who actually want to make a difference are absorbed in the organization. kids at remand home and municipal school children. who give feedback about the programs run by them. enabling them to explore more options for a better quality of life. When the students pass out from college and engage in their professional lives they can hardly participate actively for Atmabodh. This literacy program started for underprivileged children includes sex workers’ children. Organization of Atmabodh at VIT. confidence building sessions etc. The program for street children is being run under Pune Municipal Corporation. This structure ensures that there is no dearth of people actively working for Atmabodh. street children. assist and advice. they become the coordinators between Third Year (TE) and FE students. In Second Year (SE). They are the main acting force of Atmabodh. is done by the students one year senior to them. We have found that they can communicate with us better about their lives.aptitude testing. Indian Law College (ILS) and Cummins College for Women. Atmabodh volunteers reach out to these children and take the responsibility of raising their skills to par level with other kids of their generation. VIT. Per college. this provides complete transparency to the process. etc. Self-confidence must be increased in a child right from the beginning.

No Position Person 1 Chairperson Dr. A.head is selected. Each college adopts the schools or kids nearby. Moolchandani 2 Executive Head Abhijeet Singh 3 General Secretary Akshay Naval 4 Administrative Heads Sandhya Krishnan Reshma Wadhve 5 Human Resource Heads Richa Maheswari Pushpak Bhandari Monish Munot 6 Public Relations Heads Sahil Pardeshi Sneha Malpiddi 7 Publicity Heads Ravi Soni Priyanka Samarth Suchi Surekha 8 Treasurers Neelam Chavan Vaibhav Thorath 9 Design Heads Prachi Birla Vinayak Jain 10 Syllabus Design Heads Rashmi Krishnan S. the same process is engaged. M. Under the respective college heads. Mrs. who co-ordinates with the main team. Ashwariya 7 .

Vidyaniketan Kendra Eklavya Bal Shikshan Arogya Nyasa Table 4: Workshop details Atmabodh’s permanent programs are depicted in table 5: 8 . of Participating Organization children volunteers 7th Aug – 20th VIT.C. 20 10 NGO named Eklavya Nyasa Sept. of No. Pune Vidyalaya 2008 Sitaram Aabaji Bibve Prathmik Vidyalaya Sikshan Mandal P.M. 2006 Pune 1st March – VIT. Table 3: Management heads at Atmabodh VI. Activities: Atmabodh conducted the following workshops in last two years as shown in table 4. 1000 250 Yashwant Chavan Madhyamik 31st March. Duration Centre No.

Pune Municipal Corporation. CFP. Donors: RIECO. “Special Case Study” Award at National Quality Circle Convention (NCQC .2007). 2. Pune Chapter in Academics Section. Sources of Funds: Following are the major sources of funds for Atmabodh: 1. Starting Centre No of No of No of Date Children Volunteers Computers March 2007 NGO: 40 15 8 Eklavya Bal Shikshan & Arogya Nyasa August PMC: 20 10 4 2007 Remand Home September Rotary Club: 20 5 4 2007 Nutan Bal Vikas Shikshan Kendra Table 5: Permanent program details VII. Turkey. Bansilal Ramnath Agrawal Charitable Trust (BRACT). World Bank (Proposed) 9 . 2. Achievements: The following are the major achievements of Atmabodh at different levels: 1. VIII. 3. 4. 3. Fund Raising through Sale of Atmabodh T Shirts 7. Volunteer Registration 6. Kolkata.2007). Individual Adoption Schemes 5. First Prize in 11th International Case Study Quality Circle Convention (ICSQCC - 2008). First Prize in Maharashtra State Quality Circle Convention (CCQC . MITCON E-School. United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Proposed) 8.

They can train the kids who they feel are outstanding and get them scholarships. Phase two is to tap the massive resource of the IT sector. Both the organizations target the education aspect of those schools for less privileged children run by college students. enthusiasm and time to teach. IT professionals and their companies will be approached to extend their help in any way possible. This would help in projecting national level programs. Pune. Teach India: Teach India is a nation-building initiative (or social initiative) from the Times of India that brings together children in need of education and people who can contribute a little time towards teaching them. Step two has Atmabodh’s Pune Chapter’s initiative going to a state level with recruitment of college students from Mumbai and Nashik. Atmabodh and Teach India are based on same principle of bringing together children and volunteers. This will allow volunteers at other centres study Atmabodh. This will enable us to break down the task of handling the kids all over the city. Future Plan: We plan to expand the work of Atmabodh phase by phase. These cities were chosen because of the small distance among them. Akansha: There are thousands of slum children who needed and wanted to be educated. Syllabus is also school curriculum based. Comparative Case Study: 1. Teach India. Also Atmabodh has only student volunteers unlike Teach India. they get their tax concessions plus could find new talent through Atmabodh. Phase three is to get UNICEF’s and World Bank’s attention to the cause we support and the platform it can give to overall child development in India. Every college will take care of the children in its proximity. Final phase (as of now) is designed to unite all the organizations possible working in similar field of child development. Atmabodh focuses on computer literacy. Akansha etc. There existed pockets of available spaces located in schools that seemed ideal teaching environments. This will be done along the same lines of Atmabodh at VIT. Phase one has two steps. 10 .e. 2. Where Teach India focuses on overall basic education. was to bring together the three . They could provide the infrastructure like transport or their building complexes for Atmabodh. Step one is to expand all the local colleges in Pune within a year. This way both the parties win. they will put you in touch with underprivileged children who are willing to learn. This is the idea Akansha is based upon. Akansha is imparting both formal and non-formal education through its various different centres. student volunteers and spaces. college zone wise. It is based on one simple principle that if you have the desire to teach. The simple idea then. Atmabodh also has only student volunteers but plays a more definitive role of overall child development through computer literacy. While working with Atmabodh. There are thousands of college students who had the energy. X.

Acknowledgement: We would like to thank all the people who made Atmabodh a success for their valuable inputs. W. India DHS 2005-06 – Organization for Statistics of educational scenario in India 4. M. Our plans to expand horizons through distinctive approach will create a movement. Tata McGraw Hill. http://www. 8. 11 .School enrolment/attendance . 5. 3. It will prove as an inspiration to number of other student organizations and many more may follow its path. 9.The Geography http://www. A. Jawadekar. Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). http://hdr.akanksha.php .Demographic and Health Survey Statistics. We thank Mr Bharat Agrawal (BRACT). . Prof.United Nations Human Development Programme. where every student will take a responsibility for social transformation. 6.timesofindia.Organization for education for underprivileged .India MICS 2000. 2005.Organization for welfare of street . Mrs. Atmabodh through its unique student initiative has been able to impart mass computer education among children.htm#definitions#definitions . including the Education for All 2000 Assessment.UIS and H.Organization for education for underprivileged children.i-indiaonline. Abhyankar and Dr. 2. http://teach. Moolchandani for their constant support.unesco.uis. http://www. 2nd . Management Information Systems. http://www. http://www. Conclusion: Atmabodh has made its mark in child education and is trying to satisfy the need for organizations required for development of children. http://hetv. 7. References: .