VRDC is a voluntary organisation, which feels that the process of rural development has to be initiated at its grassroot level. The social awakening has to be generated at the inner core. Education is the only means which will help make inroads into this stagnant ethos of rural society.
India is 70 % rural. In villages, life is very difficult and villagers are not always conscious of the importance of education; if not rooted in the village itself, all external help is, however unproductive.
In spite of governmental measures aiming to make primary education compulsory and free from 7 years’ old on, a large proportion of children, mainly girls, don’t attend school. The age of 3 to 6 is a very important period in the child’s development, an early schooling allows for a better adaptation and lowers the rate of failure. Nursery schools (”Balwadi”) are therefore necessary to fight illiteracy.
As it is impossible to recruit qualified teachers from town, we must train the women on the spot.
This allows them to make use of their knowledge of the area as well as offers them an opportunity of self development. Meant to be married and serve their husbands’ families, rural women have little power, whereas social progress is in their hands.
Founded in 1981 by Nirmala Purandare and likeminded friends, VANASTHALI aims to develop education in Maharashtra : this centre offers 6-month training in the villages to women having already a minimum education.
Some walk for hours a day in order to participate in this course, other have to fight to get their family’s consent. During these courses, the women get a special training, are introduced to child psychology, child education, health, nutrition, school management. They receive practical training in crafts, games and songs.
They become members of the VANASTHALI family, become more self-confident, and develop their own potentialities.
Having their training, the Balwadi teachers have to convince the people in their villages and obtain a place to open a nursery class.
VANASTHALI provides their salaries and the necessary equipment and also insures pedagogical assistance. These women may also be employed by other associations that appreciate the high level of their training. This way, they obtain a social status, an economic independence and consideration among their friends and families.
VANASTHALI organizes advance training camps twice a year that give the teachers an opportunity to see other places and meet other people; they receive informations about new pedagogical means as well as about health and family planning.
The VANASTHALI teachers regularly hold discussions with the parents, offer public readings to illiterate adults and thus extend their educational power to the whole village community, becoming a real driving force of social progress.
VANASTHALI publishes, every other month, a contact-brochure in which the teachers exchange their experiences and find new ideas to improve their abilities.
VANASTHALI helps its members to buy bicycles or scooters to make it easier for them to go from place to place, as well as sewing machines to increase their income, also to build toilets that are too scarce in the rural areas.
VANASTHALI runs holiday centres for the young people and holiday camps for the 6-12 year-old.
VANASTHALI teachers help regularly almost 2000 orphan children in their studies in the governement run and private orphanages.
VANASTHALI has organized regular public readings for employees while they are at work in “beedi” (cigarettes) manufacturing centres.
Under the responsibility of the teachers, VANASTHALI organizes itinerant libraries of books and magazines where no newspapers are available and has also small libraries for children.
VANASTHALI helped quake-affected people in Gujarat, flood-affected people in Orissa and also donated money for Kalgil Relief Fund spared from Vanasthali staff’s income.
VANASTHALI is almost entirely financed by private Indian and foreign donations.