“Education is this civilization’s greatest leveler. It has the power to empower the weakest of the weak, bring peace to the world and alleviate poverty. It is often seen as the only lit path in the pursuit of happiness.”
- Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Inspired by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's vision of value education for all, The Art of Living provides free holistic and value-based education to children that are outside the reach of other government or private programs through its program called ‘The Care for Child’ also known as the ‘Gift A Smile’.
The effectiveness of the education provided is measured through:
- academic performance
- overall success and satisfaction of the child
- Development of children in all spheres of life: social, psychological and material.
Our challenges and approach
Many Art of Living schools operate in remote areas with limited access, where financial distress in the family makes children drop out so they can contribute to the family income. In some cases, safety is a concern due to an insurgency in the region.
The focus is on value-based education that helps strengthen the mind through yoga, meditation, and other inner transformational techniques. The methodology promotes cognitive, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual growth, thus leading to an education that is holistic.
Schools under the Gift a Smile program fall into three categories: rural, tribal and slum schools.
Rural Schools are run in villages closer to cities typically with road access and electricity. To encourage attendance at school, free transport, meals, uniforms, books and bags are provided and parents are counseled about the importance of education. The attendance rate is 98% and the dropout rate is zero.
The term ‘tribals’ refers to small groups in India whose ethnic origins, culture and lifestyle differ from mainstream Indian society. They are typically in remote areas, surrounded by forests and no roads and electricity. Most are economically challenged and the culture of tribal groups preserved for thousands of years now faces the threat of extinction.
The first schools were set up in 1999 in the tribal areas of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Tripura and now there are 20 tribal schools taking care of over 2800 children. These schools have 97% attendance with a dropout rate of less than 15%. 48% of the students are girls – this is not common in these areas. The teachers are recruited from local areas and trained in the Teacher's Training Institute.
Urban slums face unique challenges including poverty, hygiene issues and overcrowding. Children from slums are often malnourished and caught in a web of crime and violence. Located in the hearts of cities, the disparity between the urban and slum dwellers is a constant impression on the young minds. Lack of availability of free education makes them vulnerable to addictions like drugs, alcohol and susceptible to crime to earn money.
Over 70,000 students receive free education in 702 schools across 22 states of India
in the rural, tribal and slum belts where child labor and poverty are widespread
among many of the students
Reduced child labor and early girl-child marriage
in villages with Art of Living schools