Anuradha Agrawala – The Unsung Heroes of ASER

Every year, as the ASER survey rolls out, everyone excitedly discusses their experiences in the field and the core aspects of what the survey is about. However, what doesn’t get talked about often is what it really takes to get ASER done every year- a giant exercise that involves moving several pieces of paper across India, organizing logistics of snacks and tea at over 550 trainings and countless phone calls to ensure that the survey is being done on time.

img_2921This is Sanjeev, our design team in-charge at the ASER office in Delhi. Sanjeev’s story is not about the children he interacts with as he does the survey or the challenges faced in the field to get the survey done. His stories are about what goes on behind the scenes to ensure that every single format being used for the survey is as clean and simple to look at as possible and that formats are printed on the correct paper size. Sanjeev has worked throughout the night till 6 in the morning on several occasions, working on several urgent documents that need to be put in perfect layouts. Once, he stayed up all night working on survey material, rushed home to pack and met us at the airport to go to our national workshop, ailing with jaundice!! Sanjeev is always smiling and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him complain about what he has to do to get ASER done every year. He is probably the furthest away from the child who ends up being tested in the villages, but has a very sound understanding of what we are doing and how important it is.

Sanjeev is one of the numerous men and women who give up bits of their lives each year to get ASER going. Our full-time field staff strive to personally visit all the districts of their states, to ensure that data quality is up to the mark and not a single survey sheet has a mistake. This means that they don’t get a chance to go home from September to December each year and they live out of a suitcase, working during the day and traveling from district to district at night.

As we near the end of ASER 2016, much appreciation and thanks go to the men and women of ASER who work tirelessly behind the curtains, to tell India how her children are doing every year.

Anuradha Agrawala 

Senior Research Associate