“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 53,361 students receive free education in 422 schools across 20 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
The Art of Living’s 1st school, rural Bengaluru, India
The Ved Vignan Maha Vidhya Peeth (VVMVP) was the first rural school started by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981. The project started when Gurudev observed some local children playing in the dust near The Art of Living Center without access to education. 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. The school started attracting more students and a formal educational structure was established. Initially, daily wage earners were reluctant and children from only two villages attended the school. Today, the numbers have grown exponentially.
One of the students was a young girl called Priyanka. She studied from 8th to 10th standard, topped the school 10th standard exams, went on to do a diploma course in Electrical & Electronics and then got a job in Bengaluru Metro Rail Cooperation Ltd. She piloted the 1st Bangalore Metro as its train operator.
“At this young age, my daughter would have been working in the farms. We never dreamed she would get an education! I am so happy to see her going to school!”
- Mrs. Savitri, a parent whose child is a first-generation school-goer
Featured Rural Transformation Service Projects
360 million people in India i.e. roughly 40 percent of rural households do not have access to electricity. A majority of these people rely on kerosene and other fuels to meet their lighting needs, which is hazardous to both their health and to the environment. Every year 2.2 million litres of kerosene is burned for lighting, emitting approximately 5.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Traditional fuel combustion, the primary source of indoor air pollution, causes between 300,000-400,000 deaths per year in India alone.
Initiated in 2012, The Art of Living’s vision to ‘Light a Million Homes’ is an on-going campaign inspiring individuals and corporate partners to work with us to bring clean and affordable lighting solutions to un-electrified homes and villages in India and in Nepal.
The Light a Home follows an integrated approach that combines multiple elements of rural transformation including building rural entrepreneurs. While there is still a journey to be completed, smiles are already lighting up thousands of faces as they begin to experience the benefits of this project.
- Assam: India’s largest solar battery charging station launched to power 287 houses on a remote island in Dibrugarh, Assam in December 2016. With women heading the implementation, the portable solution has been installed on a sandy island.
- Arunachal Pradesh: 33 homes light up in the remote regions
- Jammu & Kashmir: Two schools fully electrified after the 2014 floods
- Tamil Nadu: A remote tribal settlement of Kodamban Kombai in the Nilgiri forest was electrified for the first time
- Karnataka: Three remote villages on the border of Karnataka and Goa got electricity for the first time in their history
- Maharashtra: Solar lamps provide portable electricity to nomadic laborers who are migrants and travel from place to place