Sarat Babu Vasireddy

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1996


This profile was prepared when Sarat Babu Vasireddy was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Against a backdrop of highly centralized and rigid state-mandated education, Sarat Babu Vasireddy is devising ways of decentralizing school governance, putting it in the hands of students, parents, teachers and communities. Although some alternative private schools in India have experimented with forms of decentralization, Sarat is breaking new ground in his attempt to apply this structure to a very different population-those living in India's vast and growing slums. Furthermore, his efforts to reform government policy, in light of his demonstrated successes, hold the promise for dramatically improving the educational prospects for poor, disenfranchised Indian children on a wide scale.In Sarat's view, power is "access, utility and control." His schools are accessible to and utilized by people who feel empowered to control them. In 170 schools servicing over 100 slums in and near the South Indian city of Hyderabad, he has already demonstrated that community-managed schools work as effective agents for change in society. Not only does it make practical sense to ask slum residents to identify their unique educational needs, but there are also compelling psychological reasons to put administrative control in their hands. When people accustomed to rejection and alienation are empowered to make decisions for themselves, they generate a powerful energy directed towards social ends. Furthermore, there is a transformation in a community's culture when the majority of children shift from being wage-earners to students.
Central to Sarat's work is his conviction that if school is firmly grounded in the community, it is likely to be effective long term. For that reason, he encourages the schools and communities to be mutually dependent and welcomes new types of interaction between them. For example, mothers in the slums take an active role in selecting local girls to be trained as teachers.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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