A Revolution for Education
Free School Education Program
Ved Vignan Maha Vidhya Peeth (VVMVP) was the first rural school started by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981. It started when Sri Sri Ravi Shankar observed some local children playing in the dust near The Art of Living Centre. When he saw that they had no access to education he decided to do something to help them.
A local volunteer was appointed to look after the children to give them basic lessons in hygiene, teach them educational games and to serve them free healthy food for lunch. This became a big attraction for the children and their parents, and continues to date. As the school has progressed, a formal educational structure has been established and the number of students and teachers has increased.
Today this school has become a model for 185 similar free schools that are revolutionising education in rural and tribal India.
First Generation Students
Almost 95% of the students are first generation and the school is proud to have a 100% success rate in local exams.
“At this young age my daughter would have been working in the farms. We never dreamt of her getting an education! I am so happy to see her going to school!” - Mrs Savitri, a parent
The students are provided with uniforms, shoes, books, writing materials, bus service and mid-day meals to neutralize any factors that can prevent them from attending school. Yoga, meditation, sports and creative activities like dance, music, drawing and painting form an essential part of the school curriculum to ensure a healthy body and mind.
The Art of Living course for children, ART Excel , is organised regularly for students to help them to handle any negative influences at home. Outdoor medical facilities and a mobile dispensary are also made available.
In order to make students more aware of the political system and inculcate leadership skills in them, the school has its own cabinet. The school children themselves elect the school cabinet. Through this system, children learn the importance of the Indian democratic system of governance in a practical way. The school cabinet takes responsibility for the junior classes and helps with the running of the school.
Emphasising girl’s education and women empowerment, senior students are also taught vocational skills like tailoring, computer training and carpentry and encouraged to pursue secondary education.
To maintain the bond between former students and the school, alumni meetings have recently started. Alumni share their experiences with other students and encouraging them to pursue secondary education and their goals.
The alumni group holds regular meetings with parents and children to raise awareness about the importance of education.
Euro-a-Day and Gift a Smile program
The Euro a Day and Gift a Smile Program provide for the education of children and youth in economically deprived regions. The overwhelming majority of children supported are the first generation in their families to attend school and could not attend school without the support of the Euro a Day program. Nearly 7,500 children from economically backward areas benefit from this initiative every year in India alone. But for these schools, these children also would have been in fields, on the road, in factories - everywhere but school.
They are also given nutritious mid-day meals, and a bus service collects them for school from their villages and leaves them back after school hours.
Keeping in mind, the economic status of children and their poor access to water and sanitation, special attention is paid to ensuring their health and hygiene. Alongside human values such as love, compassion, service and care for the environment are also inculcated in them. The children are also taught self-development skills and training in computer skills.
To provide value-based education to children from urban slums, the Art of Living runs five slum schools with nearly 500 students. In addition to poverty, slum children often are caught in a web of crime and violence.
One such school is located in Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia. Located in Mumbai, India, the slum faces many road-blocks on the path to progress.
Our schools provide free, value-based education in a stress-free, student friendly environment that:
- Enables students to discover their inner talents and to blossom to their fullest potential
- Broadens the vision while deepening the cultural roots of the students, by enabling them to appreciate the cultural heritage of their own country and yet to have a global vision
The Art of Living’s free schools are located in various rural, tribal and slum areas across India. Each school has its own set of challenges based on the geographical and cultural set-up of the land and its people.
Some areas are extremely remote, surrounded by forests and no roads or electricity. In some of the places, the children are more familiar with guns than soap! The need to impress upon them that education and schooling is the means towards a better future is imperative.
In rural areas which are more accessible, parents prefer to send their children as domestic helpers or to the farms to earn a few rupees, rather than give them with an education. This is especially true for young girls.. It is common practice in villages that when a girl turns 14 she gets married, and by age 20 has children. She has no education behind her, no money, no self-confidence and no self-esteem.
Slums have their own set of challenges. Located in the hearts of cities, the disparity between the middle-class urban population and slum dwellers makes a constant impression on young minds. Lack of availability of free education forces them to look for other means to earn a quick buck. Drugs, violence, alcohol and tobacco are easier to come by than books.
This shows how desperately education is needed in these areas, to ensure the future of these children and of the wider community.
The Art of Living volunteers, inspired by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have laid the foundation and created the infrastructure to facilitate this vision of free education to children in these areas. Starting from awareness campaigns to providing free transportation, uniforms, mid-day meals, books and accessories, to building free schools in the remotest of areas. A revolution has begun - a revolution in school education!
Education - Newsletter