LOTUS EDUCATION AS A RIGHT NETWORK (LEARN)
The Lotus Education As a Right Network (LEARN) leverages both national legislation and grassroots advocacy to get children enrolled in school and to verify that teachers show up for work in the most substandard schools in India, thereby addressing the root causes of a highly corrupt and dysfunctional system. The program operates in rural Mewat, one of the country’s most destitute districts despite being located in the relatively affluent state of Haryana. Its residents, a Muslim minority called Meos, suffer a multitude of afflictions: lack of infrastructure, high maternal mortality rates, sweeping illiteracy, and a flatlined economy.
LEARN navigates various legal channels to compel education authorities to comply with Indian law. Just as importantly, LEARN also fights on behalf of Mewat’s school-aged children for the free education promised by India’s Right to Education Act by empowering the community as a whole. Mobilizing village elders, parents, officials and even religious leaders to become activists for their children’s rights, the program teaches citizens not only the value of formal education but also civic engagement and social cohesion.
The program’s fourth year saw official recognition of its work as well as local participation continue to grow. LEARN’s project manager was appointed by a national watchdog for children’s rights to represent the entire state of Haryana as an advocate for education. The same group chose our field team to collaborate on a government-sanctioned social audit to catalogue conditions in Haryana’s schools taking place in 2011. Moreover, thousands of parents lined up at our team’s urging to get reimbursed for illegally-charged school fees this year, representing a sea change in the relationship between citizens and educators.
Partner: White Lotus Charitable Trust
Supported by: Tarsadia Foundation, Lotus Outreach Germany, GlobalGiving Foundation, Buddhist Global Relief