Scores of excited children take turns to peek into the telescopes that are trained on the sun. They eagerly watch the sunspots that are visible on the surface of our star, as their teachers explain the phenomenon to them.
Another group of kids intensely watch as an expert folds paper and sculpts a fascinating object at an origami workshop. Still others get into a van that has been converted into a mobile laboratory and watch an experiment being conducted.
For these children from Vadinar, a small coastal town in Gujarat's Jamnagar district, it is a memorable day packed with exciting happenings. They have never witnessed anything like this; importantly, it is part of their regular school education.
Essar Foundation, the apex body which oversees all the CSR activities within the company, recently conducted the unique workshop at Vadinar to expose the children to an unstructured form of education, conducted outside the classroom. Instead of merely reading from science books and explaining concepts such as sunspots, the volunteers at Essar Foundation decided to set up telescopes and give the children a ringside view of the intense activity on the heavenly body.
And the children just loved it. The outdoor workshop had an open structure and they could hop across from one activity to the other. By taking them out on a field trip, the volunteers were able to engage the children and augment their learning. The fact that they could experience what they read in the classrooms ensured holistic learning. Not surprisingly, by the end of the day the children were reluctant to leave and wanted more such exciting stuff.
The guiding principles of Essar's corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities are based on the 3E framework that encompasses Entrepreneurship, Environment and Education. Of the three focus areas, entrepreneurship is the cornerstone of Essar's vision. It is perceived as a force which drives social change. Capable of transforming the way we live, work and play, it can alter the course of the careers we build, the shape of the communities we live in, and the evolution of the social systems we belong to.
Within a CSR framework, entrepreneurship may be seen as a way of continually developing an organization. Entrepreneurship can help a company focus on ideas that matter; to business and for social progress. It can provide new ways of thinking that will merge the line between for-profit and non-profit ventures. CSR is not random acts of charity but a key to business strategy and development.
Drawing inspiration from its vision of entrepreneurship as well as the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), CSR at Essar is about empowering communities towards sustainability which will in turn benefit the company's core activities. Best practices and case studies from the field are shared with stakeholders through a dedicated team of professionals. We also partner with international agencies and use resources that will further our CSR objectives.
For Essar Foundation, empowering children and adults by bringing quality education to remote rural areas figures right on top of its 'want-to-do' list. It has taken up the cause of education with a deep sense of commitment and focus and its efforts are aligned with the objectives of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, enacted about three years ago by the Indian government.
Many of the Essar's facilities are located in geographically remote areas, where access to quality education becomes a significant issue. In its effort to uplift the communities around its areas of operation, the Foundation has undertaken a number of education projects in these remote rural areas. In addition to building students' skills, the Foundation seeks to promote among students a sense of responsibility and respect for peers, mentors and the immediate environment.
The Foundation's aim is to ensure that every child in the areas of operation of the company's facilities across India goes to school and gets quality education. It also aims to ensure that its activities are attuned to the RTE guidelines in terms of ensuring that the schools have good buildings, toilets (especially for the girl-child), libraries, electricity (in case a village has no power supply, then the Foundation undertakes to set up a solar electrification project), and also implement the Child-Friendly Schools and Systems program under the landmark act. It will also roll out its 'total school improvement program' to develop the infrastructure of educational institutions.
The Foundation also aims to take up teacher-training and capacity-building activities, motivating qualified individuals to take up teaching as a profession.
The Essar Foundation currently operates four schools in remote areas in the country – Tungi village in Lonavala, Maharashtra; Mahan in Singrauli district in Madhya Pradesh; Chatro in Latehar district, Jharkhand; and Paradip in Orissa. In all, these schools provide education to more than 3,000 students.
Besides this, the Essar Education Program supports another 10,000 students in different parts of the country. The program provides books, learning aids, utilities and basic infrastructure to schools in rural areas.
|The objectives of the Essar Education Program include:
The Essar Foundation has undertaken several activities in the area of education including a scholarship project, a school improvement program, a teachers' training program, creative methods of education and also launched Avid, a life-long learning project. The scholarship project encourages differently-abled and underprivileged students with promising academic records to complete school and pursue higher education. Children, especially girls, being raised by single mothers and women-headed families find special mention within this framework. More than 5,000 students have gained from the project.
The Foundation initiated the improvement program with the objective of establishing schools in strategic locations, where government and private schools are absent or inadequate. The Foundation ensures that these schools have modern classrooms, libraries, laboratories, playgrounds, residential quarters and hostels. The project also improves the amenities and infrastructure at existing schools within the area.
Around 75 schools across the country have been given infrastructure support and four schools built at four locations.
The teachers' training program aims to make educational activities more fulfilling for teachers, who in turn make learning a meaningful experience for children. It conducts motivational workshops and IT skills development courses.
The Foundation promotes the use of methods such as story-telling, theater and activity-based learning to make the learning experience more enriching for students. The education program provides IT equipment and modern educational material. In addition, buildings and open spaces have been converted into learning aids. For instance, steps inside schools have numbers painted on them; and the various angles to which classroom doors open are painted on the floor, thus making the learning process interesting and continuous.
|Commitment and focus|
Essar, through the Essar Foundation, has taken up the cause of education with considerable commitment and focus. It has:
A voyage into insatiable discovery
AVID is the Essar Foundation's school of continuous learning, which allows adults to embark on 'A Voyage into Insatiable Discovery'. The program connects individuals who have a desire to explore and learn, with subject experts. Modules are structured in small clusters and as part-time courses.
The underlying theme behind AVID is 'Learning Never Stops;'the initiative believes that today's knowledge-seekers should have limitless opportunities. AVID fosters creative learning, across the fields of art - including visual, performing andapplied arts, culture andheritage and literature, through workshops, lectures and other programs.
AVID workshops are open to all and feature leading lights from the respective fields from India and abroad. These workshops are highly interactive with a fun mix of lecture-demonstrations, audio-visual presentations and practical sessions, concluding in an event that summarizes the essence of the AVID Experience.
AVID has touched the lives of over 5,400 people and continues the endeavor to make learning accessible through various programs and partnerships.
The seed of AVID was sown with the commencement of a successful and interactive women's study group. This forum helped women from different fields to develop a basic understanding of economics and gave them the confidence to correlate current economic trends and be able to converse on related subjects. Similarly, AVID will also be a resource for students of any age desirous of learning various topics which are not taught formally in regular curriculums.
Taking a cue from the other well-established institutes of continuing education in the US, the UK and other parts of the world, AVID plans to provide a general yet comprehensive overview on diverse subjects.Itsprograms and modules are tailored as part-time compact learning capsules, which help in connecting knowledge-seekers to recognized and renowned experts.
AVID will be piloted initially in Mumbai and later extended to other cities in a phased manner. Plans are underway to join hands with reputable international and local institutions.
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