Stanba Gyaltsan 

Associate Programme Management/ Pratham Education Foundation 

As a new employee, I am constantly in the process of learning and discovering new things about my organization. Being only two months old in the organization, I am always curious and enthusiastic about learning and understanding the various programs and projects that Pratham carries out. With the same curiosity and enthusiasm, I took off to get trained for being a Master Trainer for conducting the yearly ASER Survey. After going through a rigorous five day training in Karnal, Haryana, I was all set to go and train my own batch of volunteers. During the training, a lot of numbers were thrown at me, big numbers and facts which showcased ASER’s success in the past ten years. Numbers like - 25000 volunteers get associated with ASER each year, 16000 plus villages get surveyed covering every single district of India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, to Dibrugarh to Rajkot. In addition, ASER has been able to influence other nations like Pakistan, Mexico, Kenya, Nigeria etc. and also government of India has started to take into account ASER findings into its policies and planning. All these numbers and facts were highly impressive and made me think that what makes ASER so successful and how is a not for profit organization with limited amount of resources able to carry out such a big, nationwide survey with so much precision and success.

14741177_1128530190535449_191576259_nFew days later, I was assigned to go back to Karnal for the District Level Trainings to train the students in Karnal D.I.E.T, so that they could carry out the survey in their district. With all the questions still hovering in my head, I left for Karnal again, hoping to find answers in the process. The training was scheduled for three days, and the first day was just for theory. Students looked in a hurry to go back home, so we had to cover the materials in a shorter time span. Next day was field visits and I was hoping that it would bring out many questions from the students as they will have to conduct the real survey. We split up into groups and set off to different villages; I was overseeing a group dominated by girls. After a short walk, we reached our assigned village and we planned out our approach. 14725235_1128530200535448_579937306_oWe further split into smaller groups and I decided to go with two boys, who seemed least interested in the process. Our small group had the task of mapping the village, we did not face much issue in creating the map as the village was relatively small. After completing our task, we decided to wait for the rest of the group members to get back. As we sat on a bench underneath a tree, a magical moment happened, the boys whom I thought were not so interested in the process, showed some initiative, came up to me and said –

“Sir... Jab tak who log wapis aa nahi jate, tab tak aap humein ghar sarvekshan parpatra kaise bharna hai ek do baar karke dikha sakte hain? Survey ke liye apne hi gaon jar aha hun sir, sahi se karunga toh pata chal jayega ki apne gaon ke bacchon ki kya halat hai.” (Sir…. till they come back, can you show me a few times how to fill the household survey sheet? I am going to my own village for survey. If I learn to do it correctly, will be able to understand the status of the children of my village.)

I was thrilled to hear this and decided to take them to some of the houses nearby to show them how the form is filled correctly. With new energy and some much needed reassurance, we ended the day on a high note. Back in the hotel room, and alone, I had plenty of time to think about the day’s proceedings.  One thing that caught my attention was what he said about the village being his own and how he wants to know about the learning levels of children in his own village. And all of a sudden, in that moment, all my questions were answered. I realized that what made ASER so successful was because of the fact that Pratham/ASER Centre has been able to work/collaborate with local organizations and people from that particular area. It is because of the responsibility and ownership that local organizations and individuals feel towards their village or community which motivates these people to undertake such surveys with full dedication and devotion. It would have taken ASER Centre or Pratham much more time and effort to make ASER a success, if we didn’t have the support of local organizations and individuals. So, here’s to all the local organizations, individuals and groups who get associated with ASER each year and play their part and help Pratham and ASER Centre in our endeavours.