In the adivasi context in particular and in any case the way we do it at Vidyodaya, the program has a special significance. First of all, one must remember that adivasis have never felt the need to save for tomorrow. Given their environment of plenty they lived in, they were well provided for. The idea of saving money has come with the use of money itself (this generation) which is a rather new experience for them. So when the parent actually decides to put aside money for their child then it is to be seen as a transformative step into the future itself. Also it means that the parent has decided that the education is important enough for them to invest in it. It is also their way of expressing their appreciation.
How do we do this?
Seeing the impact of the program in the school, we decided to extend it to the village. We handed a small wooden box which was locked to each child. The key rested with our Coordinator. The idea was to open it once a month and calculate the entire savings. Much to our delight, the program spread to over 200 villages with more than 500 children saving close to Rs 2, 50, 000!
Learning to use the money
From the very beginning, we focused on utilising the money only for educational purposes and nothing else, even if it was urgent. So the children now had the responsibility to use their money wisely. And they did! From buying their school stationeries to clothes and funding their excursions, children used their savings for a variety of purposes. During times, when children needed more than what they had accumulated, we allowed them to borrow money, and sign an undertaking that they would repay the same over a fixed period of time. This made them feel important and even more responsible. So loans to buy books, umbrellas, clothes, slippers or to pay for some fees were taken. Sometimes the loan was 50 rupees, but never more than 500 rupees. All these were repaid at the rate they fixed, usually Rs 5 or 10 rupees a month which could be deducted from their account. Even if the saving was more than 10 rupees the amount deducted would remain only Rs 10.
This further encouraged children to save. For the parents, they remained out of this and only had to make their regular contributions to the child. During school meetings, teachers show parents how the savings money has been utilized by the child. These remain moments of pride for every parent involved.
To sum it up, not only did the savings program helped children to take responsibility of their educational lives but also instilled confidence and gave them strength to make responsible decision about their futures.
This article also published in Ashoka India website
The Savings programme which was started in 2007 has caught on like wild fire and we are progressing slowly only because we do not have the personnel to manage this. The programme consists of giving each child a box which is locked, the key being with the Area Accountant. The child has a pass book and every time the box is opened the money is counted in front of the child and entered in the pass book. So far over 500 children are part of the Savings scheme and we have a collection of over 80,000/-.
We have planned to approach this programme more systematically:
- Each Area to have 200 children enrolled in the scheme
- To have meetings with the children and parents in each Area to inform them of the progress
- To increase the overall savings to Rs. 3 lakhs
- Higher education possibility is financially secured
- To have a coordinator to follow up this programme
- To develop a good system of accounting both at the Area level and for the children
- Children encouraged to use the money to purchase stationery from the Area office