Ankur: Society for Alternatives in Education

Organisation – Delhi, India

Ankur, meaning "seedling" in Hindi, is an NGO based in Delhi which was established in 1983 to combat the sectarian divisions in Indian society and to use radical pedagogy as a means of achieving this. The organisation was founded by a group of activists, educators and artists who felt that traditional modes of teaching were failing those already marginalised in society, especially children, young people and women. Ankur work in the informal or worker settlements of Delhi and more recently also in a few other Indian cities, using education to empower these groups and as a way of equipping them with the necessary tools for living in a society full of conflicts and contradictions.

Whilst the scope of Ankur's work is diverse, including writing school curricula, developing alternative teaching resources and critiquing government policy, it is their activities in their chosen neighbourhoods that is most relevant to spatial agency. The organisation has established a series of spaces that are staffed by women from the locality, giving them an insight into the area and its particular concerns. Ankur have set up neighbourhood libraries, technology centres or media labs (which are developed in collaboration with Sarai as part of the Cybermohalla project), spaces for young women, as well as organising events such as early morning and after-school programmes for children. These facilities and activities act as hubs in each neighbourhood, providing a space in which people from different backgrounds can meet and engage with each other. In this Ankur's experimental approach to pedagogy creates spaces for mutual learning which have the potential to empower those who are excluded from society and whose voices and experiences have been suppressed. It is interesting that this emphasis on pedagogy and especially on creativity is echoed in other urban practices that are dealing with conflict situations, such as the artist collective, PS2 in Belfast.

Other Work

Sharmila Bhagat, 'Ankur presentation', Learning Network Initiative, [accessed 10 March 2010].

Yashoda Singh et al., Galiyon Se (Delhi: Sarai, 2002).

Azra Tabassum et al., Trickster City: Writings from the Belly of the Metropolis, trans. by Shveta Sarda (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2010).

'Nangla's Delhi :: About', [accessed 10 March 2010].

'The Cybermohalla Project & Sarai-CSDS on The IDEA #7', [accessed 10 March 2010].

References About

Trisha Gupta, 'Tehelka - India's Independent Weekly News Magazine', [accessed 10 March 2010].

Sunrita Sen, 'Building a Bridge of Empathy', Changemakers, [accessed 10 March 2010].

'Slum children create web fantasy', The Times of India, [accessed 10 March 2010].


"To access other narratives, world of ideas and knowledge, beyond the textbooks, remains a latent ambition of a child. To speak to this latent desire of a child, it is imperative to open a world that makes new connections, associations and meaning. The library is conceived by us as a site that creates a community of active readers, writers and debaters. Our libraries are not always silent spaces. It is transformed into an active space for sharing knowledge, experiences and creative thinking, a space where minds evolves to examine, discern, appreciate and participate in the world of books and ways of thinking."
- Ankur;

"There may be lessons on nonviolence and justice in textbooks, but the child sees the opposite around her in the larger world. Unless she understands the dichotomy on her own terms, how will she cope with the contradictions and conflicts she encounters in real life, the differences and diversities she sees around her?"
- Jaya Shrivastava (former director of Ankur);


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