We are delighted to introduce you to the work of Going to School, one of our four new adopted charities.
Going to School (GTS) was founded in 2003 by Lisa Heydlauff, an Ashoka Fellow, TED Fellow and Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, who although originally from the UK, has lived in India for 22 years.
Through the use of mixed media, and design-driven stories, GTS seeks to inspire children, families and communities, to understand the benefits of school and to spark enthusiasm about the opportunities education offers. Their books, films and Television programmes capture the imagination of children, young people and adults across the country, challenging prejudices surrounding education in India, and injecting energy and excitement about going to school. GTS aims to revive education methods, to keep children in school, and to provide them with the skills and quality of education needed to join the formal labour market. They also empower children and young people to take on the biggest challenges of our time -- Youth Unemployment and Climate Change.
Lisa Heydlauff explains how it all began:
“To make our first children’s book and prove our theory of change, I traveled across India for 18 months with a brilliant photographer, Nitin Upadhye, who we work with to this day. We travelled to educational settings across the country in search of amazing, wonderful ways that children went to school in India. The children’s book was gorgeously designed by BM Kamath, now a famous artist, without any whitespace in the book.
Stories from the book were incorporated in national curricula and are still read by 10 million children every year to this day! We founded an organization to make many more stories that would in turn reach over 100 million children as graphic novels in schools, online stories and most importantly perhaps, on national television.”
True to its roots, Going to School India is doing just that…and more.
Schools closed in India in March because of the COVID 19 pandemic. GTS responded by making School TV, a series of masterclasses taught in Hindi by India’s leading experts in everything from how to make pasta, write an essay, compost, make a solar light, start an enterprise, make a comic, be a filmmaker/photographer, to learn how to code. In partnership with the Government of Bihar, the series is airing daily on public service television, Doordarshan (DD), and is reaching 20 million children between the ages of 10-18 in Bihar.
Then there is Get a Plan, a series of 30 graphic novels that enable young people to learn 21st Century Design-Thinking Skills and explore new careers and new problem-solving sustainable enterprises. The project has a strong focus on girls’ retention in school and transition from school to work or enterprise of her choice after the age of 18. GTS have an MOU with the Government of Bihar to deliver their content in 1,000 Government Secondary Schools in Grade 9-12 over the next five years. They are reaching 500,000 young people every year.
The Children’s Scrappy News Service, Play City
"In a universe of junk, we’re in search of the truth.”
The Children’s Scrappy News Service is a televised news-talk game show for children run by children in a newsroom made of discarded and once-loved things. Children get to the bottom of the big and small issues of our time and launch problem-solving campaigns. Scrappy works on TV, online and on the ground in schools. They have already made Season 1 which was composed of 13 episodes, that aired repeatedly on National Television.
GTS have funding for Season 2 which they’re calling Play City. The project is hardwired to the city of Mumbai where GTS will transform 100 derelict and disused sports pitches, enabling children to come together and play team sports across the city. In these new spaces, children will also be challenged to come together to take on and reverse climate change making Mumbai a Sustainable Place to play for millions of children. All this will be captured and put on TV, online and on the ground in schools. GTS will then challenge other cities to do the same - Bangalore, Mexico City, Buenos Aires.
Play City will benefit 1 million children in 1,200 schools in Mumbai and 10 million families across the city of Mumbai.
Lisa Heydlauff tells us more.
In the Spotlight with Lisa Heydlauff, Founder GTS
How did the idea of GTS come about?
Going to School is based on our shared experience of ‘going to school’ as children. When we started, it was about connecting diverse children across the world through the shared experience of going to school and that school should be fun and relevant to our lives wherever we are. So it shouldn’t be one size fit all, yet the opening door is similar. We all get to school in some way - walking, bicycle, bus, train - there are often morning bells, assemblies, lessons, sports, we bring lunch or eat lunch at school.
When we started Going to School it was powered by the idea that children from diverse backgrounds, countries, could begin to understand each other through what they knew. Then through the familiar you introduce the wild, flashing colors and bouncing light of India, Mexico, South Africa, places that children hadn’t been yet, but then when they meet someone from there or go there, they’d be ready with a mountain of questions, open hearts and questioning minds.
What makes your work special?
Design … colour, texture and light is what we call it in-house, to see a graphic novel and scan real red earth to get the texture just right, to see the world around us as a series of textures, a palette from which to paint entrepreneurial adventure action hero stories that both delight and teach.
What has been the most inspiring story you have seen as a result of the work you are doing?
There are so many it’s hard to pin it down to one, and it changes from day to day. At the moment we have a Young Entrepreneurs’ Skills Show on TV in India that is reaching 20 million children. It’s supposed to be for young people age 13-18, but we have a very young fan club of girls and boys who call daily to answer the quiz questions and win graphic novels. They then send us photos of them and the storybooks they received. They are my favourite skills club of the moment, they tune in every day and call every day.
What is a typical day for you and your team?
Before lockdown, we’d be listening to young people to draft epic hero adventure narratives, writing stories and scripts based on what young people tell us, going back and testing it with them to see what they think, make changes, then test again, then finish the book and send to print, or film the TV show, edit, and put on air.
For me, I have three rescue street dogs, Isadora, Viola and Ana Banana and they love going to work too, they take it very seriously, greeting people with kisses and chasing cats.
What would your organisation do tomorrow with an unrestricted donation of £10,000?
We’d equip a multi-sport game-pitch in a government school in central Mumbai with everything 5,000 kids need to play, football goal posts, footballs, clean drinking water, toilets for girls and changing rooms. £10,000 would set up 5,000 kids to play football, tennis and volleyball for a year in a government school in Mumbai.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an organisation?
Convincing investors in education, that content is transformative.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Ana Banana, my youngest dog, she’s an insomniac.
Then, its remembering that no matter how hard it gets we are at a crossroads where we daily have a choice to able to impact millions of children’s lives through state education government partnerships, and though it can be really tough, on the other side of the most difficult thing are millions of children who need to be reached so they can fulfill their own potential - and it has nothing to do with us - it’s all wrapped up in the power of a story that moved them, a very good well-designed story.