Umang Foundation is helping to change the face of primary education for underprivileged children by providing them with basic education material.
Education is the cornerstone of bringing about sustainable change in a society. However, it still requires improvements in terms of access and quality. Based out of Mumbai, Umang Foundation has been making efforts to alter the quality of education for less fortunate students and has impacted over two lakh students since its inception.
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is the worldwide assessment of students aged 15 years to test their scholastic abilities around areas of mathematics, science, and reading. Conducted every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it aims to help countries get a better sense of the quality of their primary education so that appropriate policy measures can be taken to improve it.
The first and only time India participated in PISA—in 2009—it ranked 72nd out of the 74 participating nations. Although students from just two states — Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh —represented India, the results give an idea of the overall condition of primary education in the country.
As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) conducted by the Pratham Foundation in 2013, it was observed that barely 47 percent of underprivileged students in standard five could read standard two texts. Moreover, in the field of primary education, the motivation for less fortunate children to attend school has faced a continuous struggle owing to the poor facilities, lack of infrastructure, unavailability of resources, and missing creative encouragement.
Umang Foundation hopes to bridge the gap between education and quality by providing some of the resources a child needs for a wholesome learning experience. Distributing stationery kits consisting of notebooks, pens, and pencils is one such resource Umang helps to provide. In a classroom with 30 students and only one textbook, not only is the learning experience slow but can demotivate students, leading to an increase in dropout rates.
Hence, in 2008, Umang was founded by three IT professionals who were looking for something to do on the weekends. Their first stationery distribution drive saw the participation of 30 students, nine years ago. Since then it has been an inspiring journey of hope, hard work, and creating a greater impact. From 30 students, the number went up to 30,000 in 2016.
Ashish Goyal, one of the founders, has always focused on the idea of sustainability and long-term impact. When asked about why he chose to work in the field of education, he explains how a student who is uneducated will have to be told and explained repeatedly to use a washroom rather than going outdoors. With education, the individual is already in the know and thus the extra effort is not required. This analogy can be extended and applied to other correlations between education and awareness.
Ashish adds, "Education has the ability to be the root solution to a lot of matters. Not only is access to education a problem today but the availability of resources is equally concerning. We aim to make an impact in the quality with Umang."
Vasudha Pawar, Principal of Kai Sau Vijayatai Vidyamandir, recounts her experience with Umang, "I am very thankful to Umang Foundation for their cooperation and support. They are like pillars for our school and have been involved with us for the past four years." Umang conducted a drawing competition for over 50,000 school students studying in 150 schools in the Ulhasnagar- 5 area of Thane. Students were provided with free stationery kits and over 1,000 books were donated to her school's library. Due to these activities, there has been an increase in the attendance of students and plans to set up a digital room in the school are also in the making. Umang also arranged for recreational activities like IPL match tickets for over 100 students and their participation in the Mumbai Marathon.
However, like any other effort, theirs has also faced challenges in terms of attracting volunteers and raising funds. Drives in colleges and universities have been conducted to encourage students to take part in the cause.
Umang runs on a voluntary business model and in Mumbai alone, there are 10,000 people who have volunteered with them at least once. The volunteers include people from all walks of life, be it college students, professionals, or housewives. The funds for their drives and campaigns mostly come from individual donations of Rs 100 and upwards. Corporate participation is seen on a project-to-project basis.
Additionally, Umang is raising funds through various crowdfunding platforms. One such ongoing project is a fundraiser in the name of Justin Bieber's upcoming Purpose Tour" in Mumbai. It aims to collect over Rs 2,00,000 by urging fans of the singer to contribute. The proceeds from this campaign will go towards providing one year's worth of stationery supplies to students.
Umang has also entered the Limca Book of Records for the most stationery kits distributed to underprivileged students in a day, in the year 2012.
Thinking about his motivations Ashish rejoices,
It is the smile on the children's faces that matters to me the most. It is solid proof that what we are working towards is giving results.
Ashish Goyal, 33, and his wife Pooja Agrawal Goyal, 32, are currently running the foundation and working round the clock to create the change they envision. The goal for 2017 is to provide stationery kits to over 1,00,000 more students. They have also undertaken a project to provide clean drinking water to schools around Mumbai, under which 700 schools have already been impacted. Umang is yet another archetype of selflessness and commitment for the greater good of humanity.