Working at the intersection of education and livelihood

By Raj Gilda   |   Monday, 06 Jan 2014, 12:09 IST

Roughly two-thirds of India’s 36 million unemployed youth live in rural communities. One of the reasons being disconnect between what one learns in school versus what is required in real life. We can change that by introducing vocational and life skill training as part of the school curriculum hence making the education much more relevant and practical. Unlike in the U.S., there are no summer internships or part-time jobs for Indian students hence most kids are sheltered from real life, and when they get out of school, they don’t have any practical skills to fend for themselves.

With my corporate experience with Citibank and Deloitte and my better half, Sunanda’s extensive social development background, we thought that definitely something more could be done with life than having a corporate job and paying the bills. Hence the birth of Lend A Hand India, on a cold rainy evening in New York! From a humble beginning with $500 as seed capital, the program now reaches over 13,000 young boys and girls from 80 schools in rural India.

The mission of Lend-A-Hand India (LAHI) is to anchor young people in their rural communities by providing them with vocational skills, mentoring and small-business bridge loans— thereby not only increasing their job opportunities but also serving as a catalyst for economic growth outside the cities.

LAHI refined and adapted a pre-vocational training module developed by an NGO, Vigyan Ashram, and has worked with schools and state governments to scale-up its implementation. The module exposes rural students to a wide range of skills needed for technical and vocational employment and entrepreneurship in rural areas. The program not only delivers practical skills training, but also offers students the opportunity to explore their own vocational interests. LAHI’s program allows students to discover an area of interest in advance and helps them develop the life skills necessary to succeed in seeking employment or starting their own rural enterprise. Exposing students and their families’ to vocational training at the secondary level may also help reduce the stigma that prevents many individuals from pursuing TVET education in India. The program has not only successfully expanded, but the state government of Maharashtra has also formally adopted the module into its curriculum and offers graduates of the program preferential access to public training institutes.

To counter the rote method of learning in India, major stress is on productive activities which benefit the community and some real earning would give self-confidence to the students. Few such examples are:


Vaccination of animals

There is a misconception about vaccinating animals among tribals. They fear that it will reduce productivity of animal or they fall sick. In Dhule district, Animal husbandry department trained high school children about vaccination and its benefits. They also corrected misunderstanding. Once students are convinced, with the help of these school children from 7 schools, government veterinary doctors could vaccinate 6449 (cows, buffalo and goats) in 15 days. Students talked to villagers, and explained to them, some of them got trained to administer vaccine under supervision of doctors. 


Nursery and environment

Students from schools in Nandurbar district learned to grow plants in nursery. Against an order from a local non-profit (NGO), they grew over 9000 plants. They took out a rally in the village to create awareness about environmental issues and carry out plantation drive. Many students adopted 1-2 plants. After seeing success of school nursery, a leading farmer took help of school instructors and made nursery on his own farm. This demonstrates Education through Development & Development through Education.



Construction of soak pit to stop breeding of mosquitoes is regular activity as part of the program. Every year hundreds of soak pits are made by students. They also breed Gappi fish which eat mosquito’s eggs. Construction of low cost toilets, toilets with less water can all demonstrated and used in school. Testing portability of water, soil testing, blood group and hemoglobin test are carried out in school laboratory. Last year, Hingangaon School found out 2 wells out of 4 in the village is not good for drinking water. They informed Village council head about it which resulted in council taking the action. 


Drip Irrigation

A farmer in Brahmanwel village gave order to school to install drip irrigation system in his farm. Students completed it as part of their project work. Farmer got services at low cost and students get hands on training. Like drip irrigation, schools also provides service of sprinklers, mulching, vermi composting etc. to farmers. 


Fertiliser in Agriculture

Recently, 9th class students from Tandulwadi village created a demonstration plot of Zendu(Marigold) flowers. They prepared the land, carry out seeds treatment. They prepared seedlings in nursery for 21days. They used bio fertilizers and planted plants by leaving proper distance between the crops. Based on the soil testing, they decided quantity of fertilizers. They planted the plants by estimating flowering time will come during festival seasons and earned more than Rs. 70,000 ($1200)


Watershed Development

Students from Gawadewadi School constructed a small dam by doing dumpy table and plane table survey. They contributed their labor to construct it. Survey sites for watershed development are part of the curriculum. 


Food Preservation

Students make different food items using local agriculture produce. Jams, Jelly, cake, Biscuits, local snacks, chikki etc are common in the schools. Snacks on annual day, school functions etc. is responsibility of school. This also helps in standardization of some local snacks.


About Author

Raj Gilda

Co-founder, Lend A Hand India

Lend-A-Hand India provides job and life skill training to young boys and girls from the rural high schools in India.