With the literacy rate pegged at 63.6 per cent, the residents of Mundra Taluka in Kutch, Gujarat, might not figure among the most deprived (educationally speaking) populations in the country but they have never been adequately endowed either. In fact, far from it.
The female population scores a disappointing 52.04 per cent on the literacy front, as against a robust 74.83 per cent notched up by the males. If this is considered an indicator of gender inequality, then the sharp drop out rate of girl students in middle school proves the point conclusively.
Mundra is not the only dark spot on the Kutch landscape. When Coastal Gujarat Private Limited (CGPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company, identified this area as the site for its ambitious project the 4000MW Ultra Mega Power Plant, it had done a close survey of the 6 catchment villages that lay within– Tunda-Vandh, Mota Kandagra of Mundra; Nanabhadia, Tragadi and Modhva of Mandvi Taluka of Kutch. As far as schools were concerned the scenario revealed was quite dismal. The primary and pre-primary sections were much below class level, requiring an almost 90 per cent shoring up. The higher levels, too, were barely better.
While the Government on its part has been trying to improve the education scenario in Mundra, CGPL, at this stage, decided to pitch in so that the reforms could be introduced and implemented faster and more effectively.
In this endeavour, the Company introduced some very innovative concepts in partnership with the local government and certain non-profit organisations, which are known for their expertise and experience in the field of education. Shiksha Saarthi is one such initiative that has been able to position itself right on the centre stage, thanks to the sheer range of issues it addresses, and the efficiency with which it has been able to execute its plans, so far.
CGPL has Pratham Education Foundation, a front-runner in this domain, as its partner in Project Shiksha Saarthi. Together they have built up a network of 83 schools, spread across Mandvi and Mundra.
Shiksha Saarthi begins a new phase every year with a colourful Pravesh Utsav, with the local government pitching in to persuade as many households as possible to send their children to school. Specially designed educational kits, carrying colourful messages on environment, focussing on energy conservation, are distributed among the new entrants. Then through the year science fairs, learning camps for improving learning levels
in reading and basic math, fun events, educational exposure visits and implementation of Government sponsored programmes—every avenue is explored to keep students, teachers as well as the parents engaged and interested in the education system. Volunteers, hailing from CGPL staff base, are trained by Pratham to conduct special classes with parents.