Recently, in January 2013, more than 4,500 children from 22 schools across 17 villages around Vadinar in Jamnagar District of Gujarat came together to celebrate education at a three-day ‘Bal Vividha’ (‘variety for children’) festival focused on ‘Discovering the magic of maths and science in nature. With multi-layered components — interactive corners, learning workshops, a science exhibition arranged by the students, displays of creative books and various games and toys — the festival showcased innovative ways of making learning a fun exercise. Essar Foundation partnered with ten non-profit organizations to make the festival a success.
This is not the first time that Essar Foundation has celebrated education in this unique, joyous way. It has shown teachers and students how learning can be fun and schools made to become attractive magnets — through improved infrastructure and a range of creative learning methods.
It has brought fun to the study of mathematics among children of migrant workers in Khargar, Navi Mumbai. Using Origami as a fun tool, the Foundation showed teachers and students alike how basic math and geometric concepts can be made easy to understand. It has partnered with the Hole-In-The-Wall education initiative of NIIT, independently organized science fairs at schools across villages, and held painting competitions to improve awareness of environment issues.
It has mobilized Essar employee-volunteers to make schoolrooms brighter by painting attractive murals; it has also mobilized the volunteers to construct attractive learning tools. A number of the volunteers created tools out of waste material — for example, puppets on ice-cream sticks to teach the alphabet; other created posters explaining science concepts such as evaporation.
And, of course, it organizes regular celebrations on the National and Universal Children’s Day — November 14 and November 20, respectively — where schools become the centers of exhibitions, cultural and sports programs. As part of the Universal Children’s Day celebrations in 2012, the Foundation offered ‘Toy Trunks’ as part of a workshop for anganwadi (childcare center) workers to show how toys can be learning tools.
The Foundation has organized story-telling festivals to boost learning — such as the partnership with playwright Sananda Mukhopadhyay in Mumbai’s municipal schools, the Tamarind Tree training for tribal teachers in Maharashtra in September 2012 and the Kahani festival in Chhattisgarh village schools in April 2012. An important initiative, considering the poor educational facilities available locally, Kahani introduced children to alternate mediums of learning through story-telling, movies, puppetry, dance, music, workshops etc.. The Hole-In-The-Wall initiative has brought computers and computer-based learning to schools supported by Essar Foundation and various Essar companies. Apart from basic computing skills, the facility provides entertaining and motivating content.
Sports programs — mainly football, in schools across Gujarat, Jharkhand and West Bengal — receive continuous support from Essar companies as well as Essar Foundation, boosting students’ commitment to attendance. Interventions to improve girls’ education are also a particular focus of the Essar education-development initiatives.
Essar Foundation has helped build and strengthen school infrastructure for communities in all the states where Essar has facilities. It has distributed school kits to children from underprivileged homes, focusing especially on girls. And it has partnered with Pratham Books to inculcate the joy of reading among students across villages and cities where it has operations.
The Bal Vividha celebration was only the latest culmination of the Essar Foundation initiatives to make learning a pleasure.Also read:
Helping build a reading India