Tata Steel Foundation brining back children to schools

Joda: With a number of children still out of school, Tata Steel Foundation has taken up initiatives in Joda to bring them back to schools.

The Thousand Schools Programme was launched in January 2015 by Tata Steel Foundation, with the goal of creating a replicable and scalable model of universalization of elementary education within the Right to Education Framework. The program, run along with Delhi-based NGO Aspire, has reached out to more than 32, 000 children in and around Joda.

Deepa Munda had to drop out of school as it was very far from her home. The Tata Steel Foundation (TSF) team took efforts to get her into learning in 2019 through the initiative. She was put into the Residential Bridge Course (RBC) that is meant for those children who never went to school or are long drop outs. Thereafter she was mainstreamed into formal schooling in the area. She is pursuing her Plus Two course in the local women’s college after completing her matriculation. She aspires to become a teacher officer in future.

“I never thought that I would be able to go to school again. But the bridge course helped me bounce again and gain confidence. I see a future for myself now,” she said.

All children covered under the initiative go to school and are being tracked by the School Management Committees (SMCs) and communities. The programme had also made significant and measurable progress towards its goal of bridging the learning gap, improving the functioning of schools and enabling government teachers to replace archaic teaching methods with more current and effective pedagogy in their classrooms.

A network of seven Community Education Resource Centers (CERC) equipped with rich online and off-line resources has been established in Joda that served as learning centres for the students.

“Education is a national priority area, and the Foundation’s is developing approached that are sensitive to the challenges of the marginalised and excluded communities, and aligned with the ongoing policies and programmes, so that the emerging learnings are replicable,” says Smita Agarwal, Head (Education), Tata Steel.

One of the most profound impacts of the pandemic has been the gap in learning and dropout of children from rural government schools across India. Under the initiative, a special Lockdown Learning module was created to address the learning gaps. It involved curated physical presence of teachers and freshly designed material to bridge this gap.

The Thousand Schools Programme has been awarded the “Most Impactful CSR Project” as part of the CSR awards of the Government of Odisha, by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha Shri Naveen Patnaik in 2018.