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Studying Society the Sangati Way

What do children study in social studies?   Sangati is a program that encourages children to study society, starting with themselves.  Avehi-Abacus has trained teachers in more than 900 schools of the Bombay Municipal Corporation to implement this program.  I had the opportunity to visit some of the classes during their Sangati session.

The Sangati curriculum is designed with the aim of helping students make sense of their personal experiences at home and in their neighborhoods in a broader social, political and historical context.  The students I met had learned about Savitri bai Phule who worked for the cause of education for women and girls, and read stories raising caste issues such as Premchand’s Thakur ka Kuan (Thakur’s well) and Eklavya.

In the course of the discussion, the teacher asked them questions such as,

“What have been the conventional roles expected of men and women?”

“How has society changed?”

“How does education play a role?”

“Was Dronacharya a great teacher?”  (क्या द्रोणाचार्य महान गुरु थे?).

“If your teacher asked you for such a guru-dakshina what would you do?”


In their discussion we could see that while the material they discussed challenged social conventions and power structures, their ideas of how to challenge these in their own lives were yet forming and would take many more such discussions for them to articulate.

The politics of the classroom and the politics of their present reality layered upon one another, complicating the questions that the teacher asked based on the lesson.   It poignantly revealed how far the students were willing to go in challenging issues of caste and gender which we like to think are settled.

I read some of the textbooks and teacher’s guides, including descriptions of their classroom exercises designed to facilitate introspection on questions of caste and gender.  It would be interesting to try out these exercises ourselves in chapters.  There is so much that we in AID can learn from this program, as travelers along the same journey towards a just society. 



February 2014 / Aravinda Pillalamarri 

AID supports Avehi Abacus in training teachers to implement the Sangati program in the schools of the Bombay Municipal Corporation.


Avehi Abacus

The NGO:  Avehi Abacus Charitable(Educationa) Trust AP C(E)T
Supporting AID Chapters: AID Chicago
Amount Funded: Total funding: ₹330,000 (2015)


 Avehi Abacus began with an individual’s (Shanta Gandhi, an educator with eclectic interests, and teachingdiverse training in science, theatre, dance and politics) passion to develop a children’s curriculum that had relevance to their lives. It evolved naturally through her interaction with a group of children in a small village of south Gujrat, while children asked questions about their surroundings, and the process of finding answers (through games, songs and discussion) led naturally to questions regarding human evolution - how life emerged, why we are what we are, how our lives have changed from the past, and so on.

“AVEHI” means To Know. Since 1990 Avehi Abacus Project of Avehi Public Charitable (Educational) Trust (APC[E]T),  is working on strengthening the quality and content of education and reaching out to 905 MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Great Mumbai) schools  with 10,000 teachers and more than 2 lakh children mostly belonging to migrant slum community of lower economic strata.

The Avehi Abacus Project has developed three integrated packages of educational materials for students and teachers in the formal as well as the non-formal streams of learning. These are Sangati, Manthan and Saath Saath.

Sangati -Togetherness, Relevance, Harmony

sangathiSangati is a thought-provoking series of six interactive teaching-learning kits that are organized in a way to provide a different perspective for children to understand and analyze the world around them.




These interlinked themes are:

  •     Myself, My body, Our needs Our earth and the web of life
  •     How societies developed
  •     The way we live Understanding change
  •     Preparing for our future 
Saath Saath – living together in harmony

saath Responding to the increasing awareness about gender parity and ironically, the growing violence against the female sex,
the Avehi Abacus Project has developed a kit on Gender titled Saath Saath - Living together in harmony. The kit has been
developed to generate respect for individuals irrespective of their biological sex. It aims to create an awareness that
requires not just intellectual effort but sensitivity and open-mindedness.

Manthan- Churning
It is a foundation course for pre-service teacher training.

ManthanThe themes covered in Year One focus on the fundamentals of education. The sessions look at the some of the players in the field of education, their roles and the impact that they have, as well as the ways in which we learn. They go on to explore the history of education in India, and finally discuss Curriculum, Methodology, and Assessment in greater detail.

Based on the fundamentals explored in Year One, the curriculum of Year Two focuses on issues that affect our society. Complex issues such as caste, class, gender, nationalism, and the environment are discussed and deconstructed. The aim is to locate education in the wider context of society, and to examine the role of teachers within the social system.


For more information about this project please contact Archana;
Do you have any feedback about this series? Interested in helping with Know Your Projects series or other initiatives by the Projects team? We would like to hear from you. Please write to 


Payvihir Eco Village Wins UNDP Biodiversity Award, 2014

 Checking water runoff on the deforested hills of MelghatVillagers of PayvihirWater & Soil Conservation trenches constructed under MGNREGA







  In May 2014 the village of Payvihir won the UNDP biodiversity award for its forest conservation efforts. Read the ToI article.

Payvihir is a village of 110 families (mainly from the Korku tribe and some from Balai) at the foothills of Melghat region of Amravati district. The once rich forests have been depleted taking with it the biodiversity of the region. Khoj, a partner of AID has been working with the communities in the area since 1996.

AID has supported the work of Khoj since 2008 and the eco villages since 2011. Volunteers have also connected them to C Srinivasan who works extensively on waste management across India

Education For All


Society for Education of the Crippled (SEC) provides a nurturing residential school in Kanhe Phata, for differently-abled children from villages. Most parents are daily wage earners. Teachers, physiotherapists and social-workers work with the children and their families for physical rehabilitation, academic education, encouraging creativity and helping them lead independentlives.

Forest Restoration and Paivihir ECO Village, Maharashtra

Partner: KHOJ

Duration: 2011 to present 

Forest regeneration

Children’s Library at Surodi

Chapter: Boise 

Amount: Rs. 392950

This project aims to build a library for the primary school children of Surodi village with 65 students and of neighboring drought-prone poor villages in Maharashtra, to promote the desire for education and learning.


Amhi Amchya Arogyasaathi

Women maintain Emergency Health Funds Healthy mother healthy child in Nagpur

 Health check up in mobile clinic








“Swasthya Jananni Sudrudh Balak” is a project run by Amhi Amchya Arogyasaathi in 9 slums of Nagpur in which women's groups work to improve maternal and neonatal health

Society for the education of the crippled

DancingkidsSupporting Chapter: Dallas

Amount: Rs. 225000

Society For The Education Of The Crippled reaches out to more than 700 physically challenged students and adults every year in Kanhe Phate, Pune District.



Mann Deshi-1000 Deshi Entrepreneurs

man deshiSupporting Chapter: Portland

Amount: Rs.175000

Mann Deshi project targets 196 villages in the district of Satara, Hubli and Dharwad in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Their work reaches to around 1000 individuals (deshi women entrepreneurs) in more than 100 households per village.


Surodi Watershed Work, Maharastra


Help Construct Science Centre in Surodi Village!

 Surodi School







VMT Watershed Program

villagersNGO : VMT (Venu Madhuri Trust)
Location: Kolhapur, Maharashtra
Budget: $ 5850

AID recommended a training program for the villagers. So, villagers were sent to AFARM, a watershed training center & villagers completed training in watershed work in May 2005 and they are carrying on the watershed work for Ramanwadi from 2006.


gobargasNGO: VMT (Venu Madhuri Trust)
Location: Kolhapur,Maharashtra  
Chapter: Dallas

This project will help installation of 75 Gobargas units and 150 fuel efficient wood stoves for families in the village, that will be manufactured locally after a scientific training to a local person.

Education for Hearing Impaired Children

hearing impairedNGO: GLSM
Location: Karjat, Maharashtra
Chapter: Boston

Duration:2012-2014 ($4000)

Gramin Lok Seva Mandal (GLSM) is a Gandhian organization based in Karjat, Maharashtra. They run a home for hearing impaired (also speech impaired) and mentally challenged children from surrounding adivasi villages.

Water of Life: Rejuvenation in a Drought Prone Village

Chapter: Pittsburgh
Location: Maharashtra

Of the 42 bunds in Surodi, 21 were constructed by the villagers over four years while the remaining were built by the government earlier and in need of repair or reconstruction; 27 are earthen and 15 are concrete/stone. The total spent on the construction of 18 new bunds, and the repair of 5 out of the total 22 pre-existing ones, was Rs. 2.65 lakhs or just over $6,000 this is equivalent to the average spent by the government to build just one bund. The Pittsburgh chapter of the Association for India's Development (A.I.D.) provided the majority of the funding for Surodi's watershed development program.