The Essar Foundation is empowering children and adults by bringing quality education to remote rural areas
The value of education cannot be emphasised enough, particularly in India, where the number of uneducated children and adults continues to be staggering. Despite the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and significant investments in the field of primary education by the Government of India, the joint review mission (JRM) of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (the government’s main programme for universalisation of elementary education), revealed that around 44 million children do not go to school.
Another critical problem with the Indian education system is the drop-out rate. More than 50 percent of children who join in Class I drop out by Class VIII. According to the JRM report, nearly 2.7 million children drop out of school every year (source: Annual Status of Education Report 2010).
Essar, through the Essar Foundation, has taken up the cause of education with considerable commitment and focus. Many of the Essar 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 projects aim to nurture students’ curiosity by using alternative and more practical methods of teaching. In addition to providing books, learning aids, utilities and basic infrastructure to schools in rural areas, the Foundation also builds schools in isolated areas. So far four schools have been established (at Tungi village in Maharashtra; Mahan in Madhya Pradesh; Chatro in Jharkhand; and Paradip in Odisha), and over 3,000 students enrolled. As a result, people are better able to participate in and contribute to their community’s development and progress. To date, more than 10,000 students have been supported by the Essar Education Programme.
- Resolve fundamental issues of access and quality in education
- Enable young minds to realise and achieve their true potential through education
- Promote the use of creative tools to make education an enriching experience
- Improve infrastructure and environment to enable better knowledge acquisition.
ACTIVITIES & PROJECTS
The Essar Foundation’s 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. So far, more than 5,000 students have benefitted, with scholarships ranging from Rs 1,500 to Rs 5,000 per student being disbursed. In certain cases, the Foundation also facilitates sponsorships for deserving students pursuing higher education.
School improvement programme
The Essar Foundation began the programme 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. In fact, around 75 schools across the country have been given infrastructure support and four schools have been built with the support of the Foundation.
Teachers’ training programme
Teachers are crucial to ensuring that the education imparted at school is up to established standards. The Essar Foundations training programme aims to make educational activities more fulfilling for teachers, who in turn make learning a meaningful experience for children.
To enhance the quality of teachers, Essar conducts motivational workshops and IT skills development courses. These activities have been conducted in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, targetting more than 300 teachers.
Creative methods of education
The Essar Foundation promotes the use of methods such as story-telling, theatre and activity-based learning to make the learning experience more enriching for students. The education programme 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.
AVID: Life-long learning
Recognising that not all educational and learning needs are in rural and difficult-to-reach locations, the Essar Foundation seeks to create and improve learning opportunities for all tiers of society.
AVID is the Essar Foundation’s school of continuous learning. It allows adults to embark on ‘A Voyage into Insatiable Discovery’. The programme connects individuals who have a desire to explore and learn, with subject experts. Modules are structured in small clusters and as part-time courses.
These courses cover a wide variety of subjects and use fresh and novel approaches to learning. The programme incorporates essential learning elements with theoretical and practical exposure. In keeping with Essar’s overarching belief in entrepreneurship, the programme provides individuals with skills that could enable them to develop new business opportunities.
Recognising merit in disadvantaged students
Ramji Sahu earned a meagre income as an auto-rickshaw driver in Waidhan, Madhya Pradesh. When his son Rahul was selected for an undergraduate course at the prestigious IIT Roorkee, it was a matter of great pride for the family. Financial constraints, however, meant Rahul’s father was unable to support his higher education. Essar’s education programme has committed to support Rahul for the duration of the course by sponsoring his study and hostel fees.