Shaheen Mistri is redefining the potential of low-income government schools. Through Akanksha and Teach for India, Shaheen is supplying high-quality educational resources and building leadership towards reforming the Indian education system.
In 1991, Shaheen launched Akanksha to ensure high quality education for low income children. In order to address critical systemic challenges such as the lack of classroom infrastructure and high drop-out rates, Shaheen has created alternative spaces for children to receive high quality education across the board. Leveraging the experience of professional teachers, willing college volunteers, and space donated from schools and corporations, Akanksha began afterschool centers for poor children in Mumbai and Pune. Akanksha’s 40 after-school centers offer over 4000 children supplemental education in math, language skills, values, and the arts, in a friendly and supportive environment for 5-days a week. Building on the initial success, Akanksha has recently developed a mentoring program, through which 8-10 students meet weekly to discuss their career aspirations with mentors from partner corporations.
From these after-school centres, Shaheen was able to construct feasible models for the expansion of formal lost cost, high quality schools. The School Project is Akanksha’s formal branch of education for low income children. It currently runs 13 model municipal schools in Mumbai and Pune. The model schools focus on recruiting excellent educators that teach progressive material while maintaining scalable cost-equivalent to government expenditure per child. The School Project aims to create clusters of model schools that impact the mainstream education system.
In 2007, Shaheen became the CEO of Teach for India (TFI), a program modeled after the United State’s Teach for America program. Through this position, she is continuing her initiative to catalyse systemic educational reform by attracting India’s top young graduates and professionals to teaching fellowships in government and low-cost private schools. TFI is currently in five cities, impacting 23,000 children through 730 Fellows and is working to expand its fellowship. In the last five years, 64% of TFI’s alumni have chosen to remain in the sector, generating new ideas and solutions for education reform.
Since first starting the Akanksha centers in 1990 at the Holy Convent School, Shaheen has drawn on multiple strategies to reform education for poor and underserved children. Her endeavors demonstrate her commitment to educational reform and her ability to see innovative solutions to social problems.
This profile was updated in September 2014. Read on for the Election Profile.