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At the Pre-school level, there are two major programs namely

The Balwadi project is designed for children between 4 and 6 years of age, to prepare them for formal school education. Akshara believes that the role of balwadis is especially important for slum children as a preschool atmosphere of joyful learning enables these children to learn social skills and to gain self-confidence. These are children who might not otherwise have had the chance to experience playful learning prior to joining a formal school. Basically, balwadis strengthen the foundation, catalyze 4-6 year old economically underprivileged children to enroll in schools and vastly improve the ability of children to understand the Class I-II syllabus. This results in a learning child with much higher chances of retention. Balwadis have successfully socialized the idea of education in many city communities.

A typical balwadi runs for 2 hours a day, from 10 a.m to 12 noon in the house of an Akshara volunteer who acts as the teacher. The teacher receives a nominal stipend from Akshara, is usually a local resident of the community, and has passed the 10th standard. Children are taught the basics of language, which may be Kannada or Urdu depending on the locality. The alphabet, numbers, rhymes, colours, shapes, names of animals, fruits, vegetables and familiar objects form the core of their activities. These are conducted in a manner conducive to making learning fun.

Now schools and communities are taking the idea of balwadis further. Many schools have offered their premises for Akshara run balwadis and some communities have provided space as well.

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Edupreneur Balwadis

In an effort to transfer the ownership of this program to the community as a means of ensuring sustainability, Akshara developed a franchise model for Balwadis where young "edupreneurs" were identified to run Balwadi units independent of Akshara. Akshara monitors the quality of teaching and supervises creation of the curriculum; the "edupreneurs" charge children fees in order to make their efforts sustainable.The ownership of nearly 30% of Akshara's Balwadis this year has been transferred to the community.

Akshara will also be working with the Government to try and merge some Balwadis with Anganwadis (Government pre-schools and creches) to ensure that they don't duplicate Government services where they exist.


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