An education movement empowering poor children FROM SLUMS, URBAN POOR COMMUNITIES AND VILLAGES OF INDIADRISHYA: A DRIK-AVAS Partnership
DRISHYA, an education movement pioneered and established by the DRIK initiative of the Dwaraknath Reddy Ramanarpanam Trust, emerged in response to the need for innovative education for children living in urban slums. Based in part on the work of AVAS (Association for Voluntary Action and Services)—a non-profit organization that has worked intensely in many slum communities for over two decades, concentrating its efforts on the empowerment of slum communities in Bangalore city, DRIK (Dwaraknath Reddy Institutes for Knowledge) pioneered the DRISHYA movement. Guided by Ms. Geetha Narayanan, an educationist with over 35 years of varied teaching and learning experiences, and Ms. Anita Reddy, a social activist and one of the founding Trustees of AVAS and DRRT, who with her 28 years of intense hands on, grass roots experiences in working with poor communities felt the need to establish DRISHYA.

DRISHYA, therefore, emerged as a cooperative effort of the DRIK-AVAS partnership. It was born as a corollary to AVAS’ work in the slums, supported by the DRIK initiative of the RAMANARPANAM TRUST.
AVAS had adopted a multifaceted approach to empowering slum communities not only on their land and shelter rights, but mobilizing women, youth, elders, and community leaders for participatory action on all aspects of life and livelihood, including health, education, and self employment. The intense and prolonged efforts in slum community mobilization and development by AVAS resulted in the emergence of viable, replicable alternative models recognized by Karnataka State and adopted by the policy makers towards evolving people-oriented development programs. As an outcome of AVAS’ efforts in organizing poor communities a total population of approximately 50 thousand people have been impacted and benefited. This experience generated the necessity to also focus on the needs of children—specifically children who live in the squalor of India’s urban slums and are subsequently deprived of many rights, namely that of space, health

and the luxury of a creative and productive childhood. India’s urban slums are grim environments and the children who live, play and grow up in these neighborhoods have few experiences to provide them with hope of a fairer, more equitable and successful future.

These children’s lives are sadly devoid of basic fundamental rights of learning and laughter, security and choice. More often than not, as victims of abuse, violence and injustice based on caste, class and gender factors, these children see little that gives them any sense of optimism or hope for the future. The conventional education system, limited as it is in vision and scope, provides no answers to these vital issues. DRIK and AVAS have worked together to seek out a new model of education, to provide underprivileged children with new options for their lives, and to evolve the best systems for leadership development. DRISHYA was conceived through guidance by Ms. Geetha Narayanan’s dedicated involvement, to create a more positive alternative to the conventional education system.


DRISHYA addresses fundamental inequities by shifting the notion of a school from a fixed place to a set of spaces that exist and operate simultaneously inside of and outside of the community. DRISHYA succeeds in doing this by channeling knowledge and understanding created at many levels – physical, emotional, cognitive and psychological – in ways that interact together, resulting in a holistic and transformative educational experience for the students.

SALIENT FACTS / Key Aspects of the DRISHYA program:
  • DRISHYA emerged as a need to create an education model for the marginalized poor that is relevant, nurturing, empowering and truly universal in its nature and content.
  • DRISHYA serves as a networking platform for children from different slum communities.
  • DRISHYA students are not only taught basic reading, writing and mathematical skills, but are also encouraged to think creatively and act independently. The DRISHYA curriculum is evolved with a focus that is realistic and socially responsible, derived through a dedication to freedom of expression and thought.

  • The DRISHYA curriculum is not fixed but emerges continuously in dialogue and negotiation with the community and students. Therefore, in contrast to a pedagogy that claims to be child-centered and teacher-driven, DRISHYA’s pedagogy is child-negotiated and teacher-framed. Beauty and rhythm, aesthetics and ethics form the core of developing this design-based process to learning.

  • DRISHYA aims to activate leadership in its students, enable them to tackle innumerable challenges, and utilize their opportunities to the maximum in a society that is just, humane and equitable. DRISHYA students have the opportunity to grow in their environments, and develop into sensitive, caring and responsible members of their communities.

  • DRISHYA encourages interaction and awareness between children, the facilitators, staff, parents, siblings, peer groups and the slum community as a whole making the result of a DRISHYA education comprehensive and transformative.
  • Thus, DRISHYA, a combined initiative of AVAS (Association for Voluntary Action and Service) and DRIK (Dwarakanath Reddy Institutes for Knowledge), is an educational movement, which is cohesive,

    unique, and encourages the interests of children through a non-conventional education method. Through educating the country’s youth, DRISHYA strives to create a society that is egalitarian—where all individuals have the freedom of self-expression, the knowledge to choose, and the right to live with dignity.
    The DRISHYA activity centers are made up of distinct spaces and components that work in coordination with one another:
  • The Community Learning Centers: Spokes – located within each slum community; e.g. Vyalikaval.

  • The Design/ training/teaching-cum- activity Center: A Hub – located within the urban area, within a commutable distance by bus. The Hub is located at Yelahanka, houses 60 to 65 children, and also doubles as the teacher-training center. The Hub is also where children receive special attention on their individual talents, in addition to development of core subject skills (reading, writing, and arithmetic).

  • The Campus: Outward bound and Outreach area – located outside the urban environment, within an hour from the urban center the Campus is where children have an opportunity to be in the outdoors for experiential learning, hands-on outdoor education, and development of environmental and ecological awareness. The VIVEKA campus at Chikkaballapur,another effort of the DRIK initiative is conceived as one such institute to engage children in more interactive learning.

  • The Network: A link that merges the DRISHYA community with other communities and with the outside world.

  • The real challenge that DRISHYA takes up and attempts to address is the coordination and development of these four components so that they work together in an effective, creative and cohesive manner, ultimately culminating in change and freedom for children of India’s urban slums.
    CURRENT STATUS (June 2005):
    86 children from the slums of G.Byapanahalli (30), Vyalikaval Chowdaiah (15) and Wahab Garden(5), Bhandhavyanagar (7) and Sanyasikunte(29) have been at the DRISHYA center in Yelahanka and Vyalikaval, Bangalore since 1st of July 2002 when the project was launched. The focus in the initial months was on facilitator training, which included laying strong foundations for their understanding of issues on urban poverty, slums,etc.through actual exposure to grass root realities in communities. This sensitization and the unique approach to capacitating the facilitator teachers by Ms. Geetha Narayanan has made the difference at the DRISHYA activity and learning centres. The criteria of selecting the children has evolved within the community and this pioneering group is setting the trend for thousands of other students that will ultimately benefit from the innovative leadership-building DRISHYA education model.

    Children are eager to be absorbed into the DRISHYA system from more slum communities as the Spokes or Community Centers within the slum communities become functional and continue to multiply. Infrastructure, such as the Community Center buildings, has already been constructed with the bulk of support generated from DRIK and the Ramanarpanam Trust. There are 11 facilitators, or the teachers, at the Yelahanka Hub center and the Vyalikaval Spoke center, guided by renowned educationist Ms. Geetha Narayanan and experienced social activist Ms. Anita Reddy.


    Ramanarpanam Trust and Drishya specially acknowledge the magnanimous contributions of The R.C.Foundation, especially its Trustees Ms.Anju and Mr.Rajeev Chandrashekar whose silent support has helped sustain this Education Movement .
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