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The Vrinda Handbook


MDGs presentations
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Episode 2 - MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education

Issue 6:
 Do cooperation for development action really benefits the target populations?
How far they impact on the wider social settings?













Vrinda facing the camera

Nurturing the will to choose

MDGs - EPISODE 2 00:09

MDGs - EPISODE 2 00:36

Shiva Kumar - Afford not to Invest in Basic Necessities & is Population the Real Problem?


 Shiva Kumar




3   The right to education

The “right to education”. When the constitution was made in 1950, the argument was made that education is not a fundamental right. Because the government then said that we do not have the financial resources to ensure that. So they said, give us 10 years. 1960 came, 1970, 1980, 1990… the same argument “we do not have the financial resources. And at the same time you were seeing that India was becoming a top rate country for higher education (IITs, IIMs). But the neglect of basic education in schooling was unforgivable. An it took civil society years of pushing till it was made a fundamental right in 2003. Only starting in 2010 the government has made the financial allocation. This is the fundamental question: where does India get the financial resources to ensure that all children get quality education, that every Indian has access to health? And what is the answer you give? There are two ways of looking at it. One is to ask the question “can India afford these high level investments in basic health and education?” But a more fundamental way of putting this question today is “can India afford not to invest in basic health, basic education, basic nutrition and these essentials in life.







Flash card MDG2

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

The second goal is that all children obtain basic school education. The objective of the MDG 2 is that the right to learn is guaranteed to all children, boys and girls alike, rich and poor, in developed and developing nations alike.     

Right now, this is not so. In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, only 2 out of 3 children receive primary schooling. And it is especially the girls who get left out. 

The current effort is to support African governments and civil society in following the example of the Asian and South American nations, that are successfully extending universal primary education to most of their children. 









INDIA - India - Right to Learn - Sarnath 



Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which means 'Education for All', is a Government of India's programme started around the year 2000 aimed at the achievement of Universal Elementary Education by making free and compulsory Education to all Children of 6 to14 years of age.

The On August 4, 2009 the Indian Parliament passed The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act with the challenging reality that there were still 304 million non-literate people living in India (UNDP 2009).


We are in a girl’s residential government school in Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha spent many years in meditation and gave his first sermon. This school is one of the model schools specifically financed under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a country-wide programme started in the year 200, aimed at ending illiteracy in the country. This school is home to hundreds of girls from rural families that live below the poverty line.


We followed the activities of the girls for a whole day. We conversed with the Principal of the school and her team of dedicated teachers.


With 304 million of its citizens still non-literate in 2009, this objective has indeed been a challenge for India.


A part of India’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goal 2 of achieving universal primary education, the “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan” is a jewel among the development programmes of the Indian government. In fact, India has progressed by leaps and bounds in the education sector.


And in order to increase school enrolment among girls between 6 to 14 years, especially from families living below the poverty line, the government set up nearly 3600 residential schools across the country. Called Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, named after Mahatma Gandhi’s wife - Kasturba, these girls’ schools enrol school drop-out girls whose families cannot afford educating them further.


In 2009, the Indian parliament took a further step in the direction of the MDG 2 by making the historic 86th Indian Constitutional Amendment Act, “The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act”, declaring elementary education as a Fundamental Right for all children between 6-14 years and obliging the government to provide children with free and compulsory education. It is through efforts like these that 98% of India’s rural population today has access to primary schools within few kilometres of their habitation; and primary school enrolment among girls has risen from a mere 16.1% in 1950 to 46.7% in 2005.


Indian government policies and programmes have greatly contributed to India’s positive literacy figures – literacy rates have increased from 64.83% in 2001 to 74.04% in 2011. From a mere 11.79% in 2001, female literacy is now 65.46%. Recognising the importance of this policy decision made by the Indian government, the European Commission and the World Bank supported this programme with a contribution of over 300 million Euros.


Through girls schools funded under the “Education for All” campaign, the Indian government aims at providing an environment for girls where girls can stay, where they can dedicate their time to studies and learning life skills; where they can eat healthy and nutritious food and where their needs are well looked after.


We visited one of these residential schools in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s least developed states in terms of economic and social indicators

We met girls who were enthusiastic about studying and living in the school. They enjoy doing things together – studying, eating, playing sports, dancing, singing, learning martial arts and praying. Here, the girls learn life skills and acquire self-confidence. They learn to recognise their value in family and society and to fight for their rights. Here, they learn what their roles and responsibilities are as citizens. They explore the world through books and become aware of pressing global issues.


In these schools, the girls learn “to be” themselves – to be children, students, responsible world citizens, and above all healthy, knowledgeable, happy and confident girls. For them, even the sky isn’t the limit.





Danièle Smadja

Why should an EU citizen fund the education of the poor children in India? How would this benefit her?   I think that supporting the education of a child is a wonderful objective, a wonderful approach to defend human rights; because education is a fundamental right of every child. The second element is that the money has been worth spending for in 2003 there were 25 million children out of school in India. Thanks to the program of the Government of India and the EU in 2009 there were only 8 million children out of school. The third element is that when a child is educated, when a teenage is going to college and when out with a degree a student is getting a job; i don't think we should think in terms of competitors. We should think in terms of wealth, in terms of world economic growth. The more children are coming to the labour market with a degree, with skills... then you make the world economy run. Today there is so much interdependence between countries; it is important that there is economic growth in India and china for when our countries are lagging behind, and when they are in the middle of a crises it is then important that other countries are the locomotive of the economic growth. Whenever you give money to somebody you have less for you; but you may have less now... but it will bring you more tomorrow. And your child who is going to school in Europe, tomorrow might need the growth that an Indian child is going to produce.







Vrinda on camera -  social maieutic

 Development Assistance as Social Education   - 





Riflessioni di Stefano in moto in Siria

 International cooperation: is it dialogue and solidarity or an effort to export Western stereotypes?







Flash card for Syria

Syria  (سورية‎ or سوريا ) is a country on  Eastern Mediterranean Sea,  bordering Lebanon to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.  It covers an area that has seen many  foreign occupations but  Damascus  has always maintained a status of a regional capital. During the Roman Empire, Syria comprised the whole Region of Levant.

In 1946, Syria attained independence from colonialist France, which however split a part of its territory in what is now Lebanon.  

A part of Syria, the Golan Heights is under occupation by Israel  since 1967. Syria has been one of Israel's harshest opponents, supporting also many resistance groups in Palestine and Lebanon.

Post independence Syrian politics has been often in turmoil.  Syria has recently abolished the Emergency Law which was effectively limiting civil rights since 1962, but political unrest has increased since then. The Government has responded with violent repressions that have attracted wide international condemnation.

On Internet, there is extensive video documentation of civilian protesters being fired upon by Syrian security; along with images posted by the Syrian Government of the casualties among its servicemen that  the Syrian Government attributes to an armed insurgency prompted by hostile foreign powers. The Washington Post recently published US State Department secret records leaked on Wikileaks about  U.S. secret backing of Syrian opposition.

EU has been the main donor in Syria and in the last decades. it has been assisting Syria in its efforts to improve the welfare of its population. However the violent repression of political demonstrations has created a political gap. Bilateral government aid has been suspended but cooperation with Syrian civil society remains in force.







 Syria - Improving Schools and Learning Environment - Damascus 

Da aggiungere se lo trovo l’audio registrato sul registratore del responsabile dell’Unicef



To be recorded


Vrinda talking to Stefano

The participatory approach


Participation is a key term used in discussions, discourses and conversations on development.

Participation is an action taken by people when they want their needs, rights and opinions to be part of the political processes of their country that affect their lives.

Participation is an action taken by governments or decision makers when they want people's voices and opinions to be part of decisions, policies, legislations, plans that they make and that affect people's lives.

A dialogue happens when there is participation. And cooperation also happens when there is participation.

When you provide support in terms of assistance, effort, funds, and resources or make decisions only after considering the choices, the will, and the needs of those who receive, you are cooperating.

When you participate together with others in the action of resolving a problem or facing a challenge, you are cooperating. Otherwise, you only give as charity, not cooperate.


And development neither continues nor does it make a lasting improvement in people's lives, if people do not actively participate in all the steps and processes taken to achieve it 


To be recorded


Is charity empowering?


India - Krishnamurti Foundation - Rural School and Hospital

Audio to be written again-  see again the interviews after Vrinda has written the story



P. Krishna - Education for the MDGs



Prof. P. Krishna






 Montek Singh

There is an opinion that most of the Government's fund which are allocated don't reach at the grassroots level, why do you think it is so?   No scheme is perfect, it is impossible to have a scheme which has zero leakage. When you say that they don't reach at the bottom do you mean that the leakage is 100... absolutely not! Leakage are high, even as high as 30%, but 70% is reaching at people. The other reason people think that the schemes are not having the effect that the effect that were expected, is that the challenges are very complex one... you can have very good schemes but you don't deliver the result. (Gives example of education) and says that Pratham brings out a report every year and saw that 37% percent of children in class 5 cannot read a text for class 2. Now if you say that therefore the benefits are not reaching the target population, in a sense you are right. But what can the government do? It sets up schools, it higher teachers... we say that you need to have more parent-teacher involvement, you must have local communities enforcing accountability, teachers must be made to teach. These are things that are not just done by governments, these are things done by social pressure, social awareness, social mobilization and it would not surprise me that it takes time.  It is not true that nothing is happening, lots is happening!





Colombia - City Town villa del sol - Bario Raphael Ulive

Audio to be written





 Jean Drèze  Is a development economist teaching and working in India. He was interviewed in Allahabad, India on the 23rd February 2011


Differentiate between the Means and Ends of Development

Q: the general perspective is: let us spend some money for the people…excluded by the profits, let spend some money for the poor people. But, in order to spend some money for the poor people we must make money. And is the free market which makes the money. If we take too many resources out of this free market, which produce the money we will also not have the money to deal to the poor people. This are general perspective. When I found that in the Human Development Report, and that is what I’m interested also, this kind of cultural contest, which you are also in that…you explain better a part of it, things are looked differently. The social indicators, the human indicators are not seeing something as the money being giving to the poor people, but there are something like, it is seeing as social resources, human resources that feed into the growth on all the sectors. Is not money taken out from the virtual economy and given to those which are out of it. That should means money invested in human social environmental resources which (feed in) to that feed back, in to the condition that make development possible. Am I right? Now, this thing seems to me a bit clear, academically, but I found it extremely difficult to believe to the general perception of the public. How to go about it? How can I try to, not only to convey the message which it is strong, that we need to look at the poor, but the more we look at social justice, the more we look at good social environment, the more we create resources for the good economic development.

A: it is important….the ends in the means. Growth is a means, is not an end in itself or thought sometimes there is the tendency to start to treat it as an ends in itself. And people and the human development is the ends, even though there is a tendency, as you said, sometimes to treating it also as a mean, rather than as ends. Now it is true that human resources can also be a means and…we learned a lot of useful things in development economics about the importance of human resources for growth, and not just for growth for development in generally, and in particular about the role of education, whether you talk of growth, whether you talk of improvement of health or public participation in democracy, for all these things education is very important, so these human resources have an important instrumental role. But I think, what is more important than that is to think of them as ends of development and to think of them as wellbeing of people and also as rights of people. You know, in India we have very clear road map, in the form of the Constitution, which is very progressive in many aspects and clarifies, without any doubt, that every citizen has basic rights to education, to health, even to employment, to living with dignity, and we have to, I think, keeping view these are as the ends of development. That is not to deny that growth can be important, and you pointed out that growth generates (?)also can be used, in particular trough welfare functioning public services, to improve people’s health, education and nutrition and so on. So growth can be important, but it is a means and the ultimate objective is people wellbeing and people’s rights, as (spelt) out in this case, I would say, to a large extent in the Constitution. I would also say growth, as I said, it is an important means, but it can also be quite problematic, particularly in environment’s consequences, I think it has to be looked out. In India this is now a very big issue, because the past 10/20 years have been extremely destructive, in terms of environmental consequences. Very rapid growth of inequality and creation of life style (for humanity) of the population, which I think are becoming increasing difficult to replicate for everyone else, without further pressure on the environment and all the public resources. So, you know, there are a lot of questions that have to be addressed, without denying that growth can be an important instrument for transforming the life of people. So I think these priority have to be clear and there is a very serious confusion, at this time, about the growth being an important thing in itself, and you know, if you ask why is the Indian elite so obsessed with growth, why, as you said, it is becoming a kind of overriding object in itself and there is the tendency to view anything that stand in the way of growth as an irritation that has to be done away (within) something or the other, whether is the environment, whether is equity or anything. I think the obsession with growth is not so much this believe in the trickle down, what you has describe as the idea that people will follow. It is not so much the trickle down theory, part of the trickle down theory, but I think it is also a last (four) power in the world and for becoming a big power on the world stage. And I think that is where growth become very important in the mind set of the Indian…and rightly so, if you really aspire to become a so called civil power on the world stage, than obviously you will have to become a much richer Country and it will take a lot of economic growth.  







Julian Parr,  Regional Manager, South East Asia for Oxfam GB.


  • 7 - Do you know of any bad practices in developmental activities?    Where agencies often make a mistake is when they do targeted intervention. So they decide that on the issue of HIV aids we will target female sex workers on the root of transmission. You have given people knowledge now but what do you do with that knowledge and information. So unless you provide them with softer skills, the negotiation skills, you can't tell your clients or your husband to put condoms... you have achieved nothing. I think inclusive development, the most effective development is one you work across all the sectors of society to make change. This is where development agencies get it wrong. It is around working out what information is relevant in order to make change. The second area is around quality. There is no point in putting 500 wells if 300 of them are salinated, or they are in the wrong area or women cannot access have achieved nothing! So one paper it looks like you have done something but if you don't go back and you don't measure quality and you only measure quantity, you can make some really bad mistakes.

  • 8 - Behavioural change in people    You can impart knowledge to people, that is relatively easier. The real thought challenge is behavioural change and you see this consistently. People know that it makes sense to wear a safety belt and not to drink and drive and yet you go out in the street of new Delhi and you see people completely drunk wearing no seat belts. So it is actually getting people responsible for their action and translating knowledge into behaviour and practice.  There is no magic formula for this, but the formula is very crude here. Knowledge lasts roughly as long as a campaign, so if I run an advertising campaign for six month people will remember it for six months. The trick is to run it for longer and decide number slots. The problem is that electronic media is hugely expensive and governments and agencies can't always afford it... the challenge is about managing financial resources and dissemination of information.

  • 12 - What factors make a developmental project successful?   The challenge is to get from a pilot scale to a large scale, to be able to roll that out and replicate, and that is where development fails and breaks down. The better practices I have seen is where you integrate a main stream development practice with government or bringing in private sector and looking at multi-sector partnerships. In this way you can look at greater sustainability, greater applicability and more scale and these are the three things with agencies like mine struggles with. The real challenge is to get the learning we do through pilot projects to a bigger scale... and that requires political will. Integration with mainstreaming with government policies is terribly important. For far too long  civil society has not looked to work with the government.. its critiqued it, it has tend to undermine it by providing services that government would be providing but we have now seen a change in this.





 Anurag Behar is the Co-CEO of the Azim Premji Foundation and the Chief Sustainability Officer of WIPRO . He was interviewed in Bangalore, India on the first week of March 2010 by Fausto Aarya De Santis

Azim Premji Foundation is working with the public schooling system in India, 1.5 million schools, to try and improve the quality of education. And the reason they feel the need of that is that while India has a large public system, the quality outcomes is far from desirable, it is actually where poor. So the foundation is focused on improving that kind of education and it works with the government. They are setting up an university which will conduct research and offer graduate programs in various specialization of education: curriculum development , education management, pedagogy of language. We have large field programs where we work with government schools in teacher training, workbook preparation, curriculum reforms, and examination changes.

Why did they choose this? You will see causes you want to contribute to: issues of livelihood, public health, infrastructure, etc, he says. Anything that you see is a worthy cause. The reality is that we cannot do everything; we gotta choose something. And when we were making a choice we said “if you look at all these worthy causes, what kind of a cause, what kind of an area probably has the greatest multiplier effect. And we realized that education has the greatest multiplier effect. And it’s the same old story. If you give a fish to somebody you feed her for one day, but if you teach somebody to fish, then you have taken care of her for all her life. Therefore in our minds, if we can do a good job of education in this country, that will enable development in every prospective, whether it’ll be health, whether it’ll be livelihood, whether it’ll be governance.



















Zulfiquar Haider is the National Programme Coordinator for the Planning Commission (GoI) - UN, Joint Programme on Convergence. He was interviewed in Delhi on the 13th of April 2010 by Fausto Aarya De Santis

Speaks about the problem which arises when the Governments starts implementing NGO success process on a large scale without proper planning.

The self-help group concept came from the NGO world. But at one point the government took over the idea to will promote it. What happens is that when the state decides to implement something which is facilitation oriented and a process driven approach... is that government system and structures are not organized to reward intensive process oriented approach. Measurements of performance is based largely on numbers game.  In one of our project in Madhya Pradesh the principal secretary of the concerned department felt "you are doing only 3000 self-help groups in 3 years". The government has 3000 supervisors with 15 Day-care centers each. So each supervisor will set-up a self-help group and the next year each supervisor will train the 15 day-care workers and you will have 10s of thousands of self help groups created in a year.  We saw disaster coming! These are intensive relational process where you have to build trust with communities, you need to know them, become an insider.  He goes on to give an example of successful government stories on this also, but then the principle changed from the numbers game to merit.


see full interview:






Rajesh Kumar Jha is the Sr. Programme Officer for the Centre for World Solidarity. He was interviewed on the 2nd of April 2010 by Fausto Aarya De Santis  

  • What is it that motivates you to work in the social sector?    I'm a geologist by profession but i landed up in this profession by default. What makes me really happy and satisfied when because of me i see people stand up on their own feet and become more aware of their right... a satisfaction which maybe if i was in a 'normal' job would not have got.


see full interview: 




EU Ambassador - Knowledge and Social Harmony as Resources -  Social cohesion  from about 01:15 to 02:32