Sprinting Towards Progress on the Road to School
Sprinting Towards Progress on the Road to School

By auther pic. Gaver Chatterjee

December 4, 2018

Participation of girls in school activities

Ashok Leyland’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative Road to School Project is not only about school or academics. It aims rather at the holistic development of the child and is based on a careful and well-rounded plan.

 

A globally renowned automobile solutions provider, this flagship company of the Hinduja Group with manufacturing units across the Hosur region of Tamil Nadu has crafted its CSR strategy to develop communities around its key manufacturing units with the objective of strengthening them, thereby simultaneously producing a strong skilled and semi-skilled workforce to sustain the rapid growth of its industry. Thus, a sustainable circle is drawn wherein the communities get strengthened, migration is restrained, the socio-economic fabric of the area is improved and the company creates for its factories a potential workforce which has the ability to build up a future for itself. With such a workable plan in mind, what better segment to reach out to than the children and youth of the area? And what better way to access them than through government schools?

 

The project was launched in association with the Government of Tamil Nadu, Department of Education in 108 primary and middle schools on June 1st 2017 in Krishnagiri and Thiruvallur districts where the company has its key manufacturing units. With its nuanced plan of all-round development in mind, the criteria for selecting schools was not based on tapping students with talent and aptitude; rather the company was looking to reach out to schools with poor availability of staff, low literacy rates, lack of proper infrastructure and the prevalence of a migratory and economically weak population.

 

In order to implement the project in these schools, Ashok Leyland tied up with Learning Links Foundation (LLF), a non-profit that works to improve education in formal and non-formal segments. With its aim of holistic development, the company is looking towards improving the health, hygiene and physical fitness of the students along with academic performance. At the time of launching the project, issues to be addressed were low attendance levels and low classroom behaviour among students. Improving attendance levels of these children but naturally had to be done by making school an attractive venue for them. And the proven medium of sports came up as the solution to all these issues.

 

Accordingly, Ashok Leyland tied up with EduSports an organization which works with school sports and is currently tied up with 800 schools in India. A structured sports curriculum with the help of age-appropriate props was worked out and the project was kicked off with 15000 students. Says Parminder Gill Co-Founder & Head of Business Development of EduSports; “Our sports curriculum and other related tools help a teacher run structured sessions with the children. Besides ensuring inclusion or equal participation, the curriculum ensures that children are learning all the key or fundamental skills (and in the manner) appropriate to their development characteristics or age-groups.”

 

 

The curriculum was to be implemented by LLF resources and government school staff.  For this, a thorough 3-day, comprehensive training was conducted by EduSports which included on-ground and theory sessions. Regular fortnightly visits are conducted by mentors wherein refresher trainings are conducted along with feedback sessions to address concerns.

 

Says Gill; “We had to tweak our programme to address space issues and the capabilities of the teachers, but managed to do this suitably. With the focus being the all-round development of the students, tracking the progress of the beneficiaries is of uttermost importance with regard to direct and long-term benefits. The direct benefits were connected to fitness levels of the students, but more than that we wanted to track their behavioural changes.”

 

To measure the impact of the program on the fitness of the students, assessments were conducted at the start and end of the academic year on the basis of 6 parameters, viz. endurance, speed, upper body strength, lower body strength, flexibility and abdominal strength. A significant improvement in the fitness levels were seen by the end of the year in the students. In the initial assessments the fitness quotient of the children in all 108 schools was .75 whereas the typical fitness quotient for a child is 0.8. After the program was conducted the fitness quotient increased to .79. This showed an increase in the fitness quotient by 5 %. Says Gill; “We are currently running baseline and end-line fitness assessments for all children covered in the program. We use the fitness data internally as a proxy for health and social-emotional (or behavioural) competence of children – and this data is also used to capture the year-on-year impact of the program on the educational outcomes of the school. In parallel, we are co-relating this data with the attendance levels of children, and their overall behaviour levels in the schools (based on qualitative inputs from the school teachers and parents).”

 

 

The findings show a significant improvement with regard to a number of parameters.  A 20 % reduction in dropout rates has been reported and punctuality and attendance of students has increased noticeably. There has also been also an improvement in reading skills of the students as measured by standard reading tests. Moreover, 70% of the schools have reported noticeably improved health and hygiene practices along with increased community and parent participation in student academics. Importantly, the programme has significantly increased participation of girls in school activities and increased interaction between boys and girls.

 

Within the space of a little over a year since it was launched, the program has been extended to reach out to close to 20,000 students spread across more than 150 schools and has been introduced in the additional district of Nakkamal.

 

With a view towards sustainability, the project is working towards making the school staff and volunteers self-sufficient so that they are empowered to conduct the EduSports programs and the fitness assessments independently. Ashok Leyland is currently looking to scale up the project towards other geographies in its bid to change the socio-economic scenario in the areas it works in. Certainly, it has made the road to school a happy one to be trodden by eager feet. 

 

This initiative has recently won NGOBOX-Dalmia Bharat 5th CSR Impact Award in education category.

 

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Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at csr@ngobox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage. 

Author

Gaver Chatterjee is a freelance journalist who has worked with many publications in the past including Education World, Hindustan Times, PowerLine and many others.

 

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