Venturing beyond microfinance: Nirantara eyes kids’ education now

By Naagesh Naaraayna

MF Focus, July 9, 2009: It’s no more the traditional practice of extending small short-term loans to support income-generatingnirantara2 300x199 Venturing beyond microfinance: Nirantara eyes kids education now activities among under-privileged and isolated populations for Bidar-based Nirantara Foundation. They have decided to trek that extra mile to provide pre-school education to the children of their clients and even lend micro credit for the purpose.
Nirantara, a three-year-old microfinance services provider focussed in 10 backward districts of Karnataka and Maharashtra in India, has embarked upon a new venture beyond the confines of microfinance, that is providing education to the children of its clients.
As a first step, the foundation is launching pre-schools in urban and semi-urban areas in Bidar, Gulbarga and Bijapur in Karnataka for children in the age group of 2 to 6 years. The foundation wants to manage these schools for the first 3 years and later hand them over to education entrepreneurs, who could even be the teachers in these pre-schools.
Taken up in association with Akshara Foundation since May, the foundation wants to take the MFI’s identity as a market-led value-added service provider, not merely a credit provider. With the new brand image, the foundation hopes to achieve clear competitive advantage over other MFIs. A lesson, indeed, to learn for MFIs.

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10 Comments on “Venturing beyond microfinance: Nirantara eyes kids’ education now”

  • admin wrote on 11 July, 2009, 9:21

    It seems to be a good model for some rural areas and later stages; we can develop their entrepreneurial skills and hand over projects to them


    Coordinator: MPhil/PhD Programme, Faculty of Graduate Studies
    Coordinator: Diploma in Microfinance Program
    SMEs and Micro-finance specialist
    Department of Economics
    University of Colombo Web-mail Service (

  • admin wrote on 11 July, 2009, 9:21

    Yes, but these innovative ways of making primary education and primary health care, as well as other basic services such as the provision of water, into ‘ sustainable enterprises ‘ , do tend further to ‘ crowd out ‘ government services, and to get governments off the hook.
    It is a very difficult dilemma, I face it in the context of the small charity for destitute children in India with which I am involved (; contributions welcome !). The government of India fails miserably in the provision of decent primary health care and education, such that both these services are rapidly becoming ‘ privatised ‘ . Should we hasten this trend, in India and elsewhere, or should we fight it ?

    Or is it like microfinance itself; something that we should support and promote but only in the short term, in spite of the fact that none of us would accept financial services of such low quality, because sticking plaster is needed, now ?

    Malcolm Harper

  • admin wrote on 11 July, 2009, 9:22

    Your comments are very much in line with my worries. There is a fine line, and honestly, even many OECD countries haven’t figured out where govt stops and where the private sector fits in. Look at health care in the United States , does that make any sense? If only governments were more flexible, less corrupt, more democratic, had more resources, etc so we wouldn’t have to come up with inefficient band aids that can’t fully meet social needs because of their needs to be sustainable.
    My own personal preference, and I suspect the pope is thinking along these lines lately, is for a world wide social security safety net where countries put in money and which is redistributed directly to poorer member countries but into the individual accounts of their citizens thorugh their service providers (pensions, schools, orphanages, clinics, etc) though modern and efficient IT systems and very tight that for a dream! It would cut out all of the well-intentioned middle men and I guess be a bit big brotherish, but….
    Have a good weekend.

  • admin wrote on 11 July, 2009, 9:23

    Dear Barbara, and all.

    Good for the Pope, God bless him, and good luck. Religion can help, see the recent book I did on Development, Divinity and Dharma, and big ideas are certainly needed for big problems. In India, the place I know best, the political will and the money are available, at the top, but not much reaches ‘the bottom’. Inefficiency, corruption, ignorance, lethargy, you name it. Modern IT solutions can make a difference, and are doing so, by making people aware, fast, and in other ways, but it’s a long haul.

    It reminds me of the sad story of two widows of Indian farmers who had killed themselves. I met them last year when I was trying to help the Government to deal with the suicide problem, they are both good examples of how things at the top don’t reach the bottom. I gather that attachments are not allowed on ‘devfinance’, but I’ll send the story to anyone who asks.

    If profit is the motive, as Pralahad’s book shows us, then things can reach the bottom, but should profit be the motive for primary schools and clinics ? Maybe it must be, but I hope not. Must Marx always be right ?


  • admin wrote on 11 July, 2009, 9:23

    Folks I enjoy reading your postings in this blog. It is interesting to realise how many good people with excellent intentions are out there. Folks the world over is sick. Why are we all lamenting about the crisis in the social and economic state of the world yet we are the very people who have caused these things? For how long are we going to fool ourselves by writing lengthy stuffs analysing what would help the world get out of the crisis?

    I am very inspired by the reasoning of Prof Mohammad Yunus on a number of issues especially around the social businesses. Prof is strongly arguing that the current world order is failing to offer human kind with various options to choose from about the destiny of human kind. The current economic system offers only one kind of business – i.e for profit maximization, which is underpined by selfishness, manipulation, corruption and greed. Why can’t we be offered an opportunity to venture into businesses that seek to maximize “basic social returns” to human kind. Such social returns are underpined by selflesness and “people helping people.

    Folks we need a few selfless men and women to champion a course that would return human kind into a path that is human for all citizens of the world. Yes millenium Goals are good but I think they are not enough in destroying the selfish destiny that human kind is journeying. We need to opt for a better life for all where people will not poor anymore where people will strive to make a better world for generations to come not individualism agendas.


    Sabelo Mamba

  • admin wrote on 11 July, 2009, 9:28

    Dear all,

    I am always fascinated to read how many people find themselves selfless and kind and who accuse the rest of the world for being selfish and brutal; even statistically that cannot be right !!!

    In particular two kinds of people interest me, those who are part of countries with failing governments and those who work in charities in countries where governments have over centuries established a relatively efficient and inclusive social security system (that is financially viable, meaning funded through a tax system).

    Reducing poverty, misery, abuse depends first and last on an efficient socio-democratic governance system based on capitalism (where capital only means an effective exchange systsem of goods & services that allows specialisation – it does not automatically refer to a destructive profit-maximisation, that is a fallacy) and a culture where all individuals are considered equal, regardless of religious philosophy. Such a system promotes people doing the jobs they feel most comfortable with, where their personal desires and talents can be expressed (and developed), in exchange of salaries from which they accept pay a part as taxes to government which undertakes a basic role in providing public services, in physical protection (especially of weak minorities), education and infrastructure.

    In many countries, peoples do not make efforts to fight for true secular democracy, in which all individuals are promoted and prepared to think for themselves and, on that basis, chose to work with other citizens. I am sure that when you ask the pope, he believes that only catholics will go to his form of paradise and the others will burn eternally in hell. On that basis catholics feel they have the duty to save all non-catholics they call non-believers. If religious leaders think and act that their belief and their rituals are better than that of other religions, is that not RACISM? Is it not true also that Charity of religious institutions thrives especially in situations of extreme violence and poverty -look at Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan? Few people that support their own institutional religion believe that Humanism is the basis of acting in accordance with the basic commands that all religions share, “treating others as you want others to treat
    you”. People would really act responding to the Supreme Universal Being’s wishes if they would believe that “Even if God does not exist humans have rights” (and that does NOT mean arguing the contrary, that God does not exist, it just leaves devine things to the devine and requests humans to focus on what they do know and can do as humans without bickering about issues on what words and rituals to use in addressing the UNIVERSAL supreme being).

    I wish that especially people that follow the world’s largest religious institutions, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Budhists, accept and discuss openly and URGENTLY, that ALL people are equal and that ALL people have a duty to make governments work better and protect all citizens (from abuse and poverty) as individuals. Promoting your own human prophets and making people afraid of hell and damnation are important causes for accepting and “explaining” misery of masses and the ineffectiveness of governments. In a situation of governments that provide effective access to all basic services to all people equally, charity and well-wishing can then be better used for animal and nature protection …. extremely important in a world that is physically burning up i would say.

    Kind regards, Peter

  • admin wrote on 12 July, 2009, 0:01

    Great initiative! Orient Global has set up a $100 million fund to support private schools for the poor. The fund is managed by Dr. James Tooley, who is a world renowned expert in the field. Dr. Tooley’s research appears to indicate that private schools produce far better results in relative to government and public sector run schools targeting poor!

    Educating Amaretch: Private Schools for the Poor and the New Frontier for Investors – By James Tooley$FILE/2006essaybook.pdf

    Orient Global Education Fund

    Education fund eyes pvt schooling for poor

  • admin wrote on 12 July, 2009, 0:01

    Yes, private schools certainly can do a better job, for rich and poor alike, but should we not regard them as a temporary expedient, like private clinics, which should be replaced by decent public sector services as soon as governments can get their act together ? Money is not usually the problem, it is a matter of political will and proper management. Or is the USA’s health system a model for poorer countries ?

    Malcolm Harper

  • mgv kumar wrote on 10 August, 2009, 11:52

    Great feeling to follow the debate on private schools and the role of the government.
    While all who have participated in the discussion so far are the hope for the future, it is also a fact, (especially in India), we cannot wait any longer for the government to ‘get it’s act together!’}. Having waited long enough, I wonder whether it is time to get moving ourselves.
    Basic primary education could be followed by coping with life skills education and then with vocational training. Yes there would definitely be those who have it in them to pursue other forms of study, for whom we as NGOs could form an alliance and provide them with such education. Thinking ahead, I do not see why such an alliance cannot even establish a university finally !
    While I may sound idealistic and out of this world, I strongly believe that it is high time for us to take the bull by the horns and do something…now!
    Regards and best wishes to all
    Vasanth Kumar

  • Soumik Ghanta wrote on 10 September, 2009, 16:28

    Its really amazing to see the potential of this model and specially in country like India where one fourth of population is deprived of basic education (though actual figure is much more).

    I feel that there should not be any debate over Public Vs Pvt. The focus is sustainable development and access to education is one of the most important conditions for that. So if any NGO or any MFI is engaged in education programme, then it will be definitely beneficial for people.

    I know about Bandhan which is doing similar activity. Bandhan Financial Services Pvt. Ltd launched a free school in her village for underprivileged children up to the age of 14 years, who couldn’t ever go to school or had to drop out because their parents couldn’t afford to educate them. It has been running 60 such schools in six districts of West Bengal—Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Cooch Behar, Nadia, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas in last one and half years. Each district has 10 schools, and each school has around 33 students. Bandhan teaches around 2,000 students in all, and 60% of them are girls. Bandhan follows government curriculum so that after completion of the course, those students can enroll in government school. Its also planning to set up more schools.

    More the MFIs come forward, more our society progress.

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