Keeping with the spirit of the Nexus of Good, the Bharti Foundation uses public-private partnerships at different levels to help India’s disadvantaged youth realise their potential
Bharti Foundation was set up in the year 2000 as the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises with a vision, "To help underprivileged children and youth of our country realise their potential." It works in the space of holistic quality education in rural India with a special focus on the girl child. This mission was initiated with setting up of Satya Bharti Schools for underprivileged children in the villages of six states, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
Satya Bharti Schools are absolutely free of cost and give free uniforms, textbooks and other stationery, mid-day meals etc., to all students. The schools focus on instilling values and providing education with an emphasis on cognitive, personal, social, emotional and physical development to ensure that students grow up as confident, caring and contributing citizens of the country. There are 183 Satya Bharti Schools, with five senior-secondary schools, 30 elementary schools and remaining primary schools; all schools have a pre-primary class for foundational learning. The five senior secondary schools are in PPP mode with the Punjab government (PEDB). All the Satya Bharti Schools, with over 40,000 underprivileged children with 50 per cent of them being girls, follow the simple philosophy of creating a safe and happy environment for students as well as teachers. Satya Bharti teachers are deeply engaged with their students and are regularly trained on pedagogy to adapt their teaching as per learning abilities of the children. Parents are not only empowered to participate in schools' activities but are also oriented on making education a priority at home, especially for the girl child. Local communities around Satya Bharti schools are proactively involved in events, co-scholastic activities, volunteering work as well as social campaigns conceptualised by students on issues such as cleanliness, the importance of the girl child and her education, drug abuse etc. An education model embedded in the community ensures the active engagement of parents in their children's education, especially the girls. Students of these schools not only show good academic results but are also high on life-skills such as communication, leadership etc. with a desire to make a positive change in society.
Many good practices and learning from the Satya Bharti school programme enabled Bharti Foundation to implement programmes in partnership with State Education Departments in the local government schools. In 2013, Satya Bharti Learning Centres programme was initiated to bring out of school children back into schools in some of the blocks of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. This programme, mainstreamed over 33,000 out of school children (OOSC) into government schools and 15 blocks were declared OOSC free in the year 2017-18. In April 2018, the programme was merged into a more holistic programme called Satya Bharti Quality Support Programme.
The Satya Bharti Quality Support Programme (QSP), initiated in 2013, aims to improve the overall school quality in government schools in partnership with school leadership. It supports children, teachers, parents and administrators to transform schools into vibrant institutions of learning by bringing in co-scholastic interventions. The core-philosophy of the programme is that if schools become engaging and happy spaces, it would result in the holistic development of students as they acquire leadership, communication, collaboration, and other life skills that are critical along with academics.
At the school level, support with the creation of the school development plan, goals and priorities leads to the introduction of new activities/processes in schools. Teachers are engaged and motivated to take charge of new initiatives. Teachers feel energised because of students' interest in school activities, which flows into classroom interactions also as motivated teachers are more engaged in their classes. Increased student-activity in schools; better exposure; participation in competitions, winning awards increase the confidence and self-belief in students. Motivated students aspire for a better future and work towards it. Creation of student leadership groups leads to contributions in school improvement as well apart from nurturing leadership skills. Increased participation of parents and community in the school events leads to the contribution of resources towards school infrastructure, as well as improved attendance in PTMs and school management (SMC). Schools appear cleaner; greener and creative artworks of students make for a vibrant school environment. The QSP model came handy and was scaled during the Covid crisis. It was even taken to states like Assam and Himachal Pradesh.
With a focus on future technologies and supporting higher education initiatives in the country, Bharti Foundation has entered into a strategic collaboration with Plaksha University — an upcoming collective philanthropic venture backed by leading technology entrepreneurs, business leaders and corporates, towards the creation of a world-class technology institution for providing high-quality education. Under this collaboration, 'Bharti Innovation Park' shall be set up, which will primarily focus on industry-driven research, innovation and entrepreneurship. It will also have a start-up incubator, a research park and several community activities.
In the true spirit of the Nexus of Good, Bharti Foundation establishes partnerships at various levels. There are not only partnerships with the state governments, the schools' leaders, but also parents and communities. Such partnerships not only lend credibility, joint ownership to programmes but also successful implementation on the ground. Bharti Foundation's programmes have also attracted CSR partnerships not only because of the impactful work on the ground but the organisation's process and outcome-focused approach coupled with regular audits. The most powerful partnerships that Bharti Foundation is now initiating is with its alumni students who passed out of the Satya Bharti schools, with many of them contributing their time to teach the current students, as the show of their commitment to promote education as a tool that can change lives.
During COVID-19, it was within a few days of the lockdown that the entire Satya Bharti Schooling system turned virtual. Due to structured programmes around training parents on home-mentoring as well as phone-PTMs, where parents were taught how to download apps and use them at home for their children's studies, the shift to a virtual system was easy. Today over 80 per cent of students are connected with their teachers in class-based groups. Both WhatsApp based and online classes are being held. Students without a smartphone are being taught through group voice-calls. The teachers were given training on how to teach virtually
and most of them experimented and created their own teaching videos and online content.
Bharti Foundation presents another wonderful example of the Nexus of Good wherein good practices relating to improvement in the quality of school education are being scaled through public-private partnerships. They prove that good can be done as it is being done and it can be scaled as well.
Views expressed are personal