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First meeting / Document 18
ROSHNI - a civil society initiative
for relevant basic education
for adolescents and young adults
Anil Bordia
Foundation for Education and Development

Meaning and goal

Roshni means light, illumination, enlightenment. It is a commonly used word in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. People of these and other south Asian countries share common languages, religions and culture. Roshni's goal is to build bridges among the people and institutions of civil society of these countries through relevant basic education of adolescents and young adults - persons at the threshold of work, family-life and citizenship.

The clientele

The clientele of this programme are persons of the age between 11 to 21-22. About 22 percent of the population in the rural areas in north India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan consists of persons in this age group. Exclusion from primary education and dropout before completion of eight years of education is endemic in this region. Approximate educational status in respect of this age group for this region is given in the figure below (not available)

Other characteristics of the persons in this age group are as follows :

a. Most marriages in rural areas take place during this age, young people enter family life and sizeable proportion of them begin having children.

b. They go through physical and psychological changes which seriously impact their lives. There is an increasing risk of contracting STDs and HIV/AIDS. Young persons receive no education about these matters, nor is advise or counseling available to them.

c. A sizeable proportion of them are affected by addition to drugs and alcohol.

d. This is also the period during which young persons feel alienated - from the local milieu and ancestral occupations - resulting in migration to urban areas.

What we are faced with in this region can only be characterised as lumpenization of youth, a situation which forebodes persistence of population increase at an alarming rate, further criminalization of the polity and violence towards women and the down-trodden acquiring fearful dimensions. Awareness about this situation, such as it is, has not resulted in well-planned action. Despite several sectoral programmes, mostly sporadic and ineffectual, learning and development needs of persons in this age-group remain unmet. Due to their idealism and energy, adolescents and young adults constitute a tremendous force for change and reconstruction. What is needed is motivation, role models and building of self-confidence.

Dakar call to action

Learning needs of this age group has been a matter of concern for UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNAIDS, etc. The World Education Forum, which assembled at Dakar on 26-28 April 2000, took note of this newly recognised need. While reiterating the EFA goals enunciated at the Jomtiem Conference, it added the goal of : "ensuring that the learning needs of young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes."

The challenge of implementation of this goal will require coordinated action by UN agencies on the one hand and rigorous planning and concerted effort by the various concerned agencies in each country.


The overall goal of this programme is to improve the quality of life of adolescents and young adults through provision of appropriate learning opportunities and thereby creating a dynamic force for social change and economic development. This project would serve persons in 11 to 21-22 age group and in respect of them its specific objectives would be as follows :

1. To meet their basic learning needs and to relate learning to their life, work and environment.

2. To equip them for adolescence and family life with a view to improving their health awareness and to develop a positive attitude towards small family norm.

3. To enhance vocational and life skills.

4. To harness their energies for nation building through creation of cadres who may provide educated, informed and responsible leadership.

5. To employ science and technology for improving the lives of the people.

Programme components

It would be necessary to develop innovative and flexible strategies for education and development of persons in 11 to 21-22 age-group. The overall approach is of human development, aimed, inter alia, at poverty alleviation. There would be an essential programme component, and need specific additionality. The essential programme components would consist of the following :

1. Basic Education : By and large, it would correspond to the level of grade V, plus capacity for self-reliant learning, problem solving and searching relevant information.

2. Health and sanitation : Emphasis would be on healthful living, reproductive health, prevention of HIV/AIDS and endemic diseases, and personal and community sanitation.

3. Inculcation of life-skills : These would include ways of coping with adolescence and a range of relevant skills such as making available water potable, rain-water harvesting, better housing, improved cooking oven, etc.. In addition, legal literacy and informed and responsible participation in political processes would also be an essential component.

4. Awareness building : The activities covered under this could include critical analysis of the present predicament, particularly social and gender inequity, understanding the importance of collective action and fostering of principles and values enshrined in Universal Charter of Human Rights.

Each implementing agency would plan additional activities on the basis of the needs of the participants and its capacity to run those activities. These may include training for income generation and entrepreneurship; application of S&T; adventure, sports and cultural activities; activities concerning family planning; environmental improvement; formation of adolescent girls' forums and youth clubs; etc..

This programme would have to be based on community participation, in particular active involvement of persons for whom it is intended. For it to be meaningful, the programme would have to be holistic, based on the felt needs of the persons concerned. Processes would have to be set in motion, and concrete activities undertaken, to bring these persons centre-stage, to empower them, to enable them to make decisions about their future - based on economic well-being and humane and progressive values.

Methods and operational principles

While diversity in programming would be appreciated, all partners would be expected to be guided by common goals, a shared vision and social philosophy, including :

  • Commitment to equity, which implies a resolve to question the existing power structures and willingness to give a priority to the most deprived;

  • Women's empowerment and gender sensitivity in all activities;

  • Faith in people's participation and a willingness the use appropriate methods for institutionalizing community involvement;

  • Inclusivity, to bring together to the learning fora persons from all communities, men and women and persons with disability;

  • Commitment to human rights, transparency and right to information.

  • Use of information and communication technology for improving the learning environment and for effective communication among the various people/agencies concerned.
  • Phasing and implementation

    This programme will be implemented in the following phases :

  • Phase I : 2001-2004 Pilot testing, mainly through NGOs and other organs of civil society (local bodies, teachers' associations, etc.) in countries of South Asia. Some beginning also in other countries.

  • Phase II : 2005-2010 Larger implementation through government agencies and civil society. Incorporation of this as a priority in the plans of various countries, provinces and local governments. Systematic implementation extending to most developing countries. Relevance of curriculum will influence primary and adult education programmes.
  • Subsequent Phase

    It is hoped that integrated programmes of education and development for adolescents and young adults will be organised on a large scale and at least 50 percent of out of school person will be covered in all developing countries by 2015.

    In Phase I, implementation will be done by NGOs and other organs of civil society. UNESCO/UNICEF/UNFPA would convene regular meetings, provide technical guidance and financial support.

    If acceptable to other partners, Foundation for Education & Development, a Delhi-Jaipur (India) based NGO could play nodal role. This Foundation has already prepared a detailed project for implementation of such programmes in different parts of northern India. The Foundation's trustees are in contact with NGOs in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

    Technical resource support agencies will need to be identified in each country. These agencies will help in programme development, preparation of designs and materials for learning, provision of forum for review and planning, organisation of training and orientation programmes, and research, evaluation and documentation. At the initiative of Foundation for Education & Development, with endorsement of Government of India's Ministry of Human Resource Development, UNESCO New Delhi has already begun to support an NGO to play the role as technical resource support agency.

    Requirement of funds

    It is expected that 25 units will be operationalized in Phase I. Each unit will provide intensive education/training to 1000 persons, at least 50 percent of them females. These persons, in turn, will involve their peers in learning activities. The estimates made in the projects developed by Foundation for Education & Development come to about US $300,000 per unit for four years. This would bring the cost of 25 units to US $7.50 million. An amount o US $2.50 million would be required as management cost and support to institutions of technical resource development. This brings the requirement to US $10.00 million.

    Requirement for Phase II would depend on the progress of the programme in Phase I and may be estimated in 2003.