“No one can gauge how vital the impact of Project Sujaan has been till we put all the facts in the right context”, declares Sanjay Bhai Patel, a school teacher in Vandh, a village tucked away in Kutch district of Gujarat. It is one of the six that lay within the project site of the 4000MW Ultra Mega Power Plant, the flagship scheme of Coastal Gujarat Private Limited (CGPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company. And his school is a direct beneficiary of Project Sujaan, a CGPL initiative that introduces technology-based learning pedagogy in rural schools. To implement it, the Company has forged a partnership with Hole-in-the-Wall Education (Hiwell), a Joint Venture between NIIT and International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank group. “And together the partners have installed multi media computers right outside our classrooms. We can use them whenever we need to, free of cost,” says Patel.
An exciting development no doubt, especially for a school community — which like most others in rural India — has learnt to make do with bare minimum facilities. But Project Sujaan is not only about installing fancy hardware, says Patel. What is so special about that? After all, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) projects have been the ‘flavour of the season’ for quite a while now, with both governmental and non-governmental agencies pumping in money to buy and set up computers in rural schools across the country.
The difference is very basic, really. CGPL means business. It wants to make sure that the machines are actually being used, and are not sitting idle, gathering dust in a store room somewhere. So along with HiWell it has also partnered with a social enterprise named ‘Learning Delight’ that focuses on training the teachers on how to use the machines that have now been put at their disposal.
“CGPL has set up learning stations in the villages, where both teachers and students are rigorously trained. Orientation programmes are organised to provide tips on relevant programmes and basic troubleshooting. The focus is on innovations in technology, General Knowledge, and cognitive skills,” informs Patel. Very often CGPL staffers, who offer their services as volunteers, are roped in to add a fresh dimension, perhaps a more professional one, to the tone of these workshops.
No, the monitoring does not end there. Students are regularly tested to gauge their skill levels, along with standard subjects like mathematics, science and others. The evaluation is done on the basis of a baseline study of the students conducted at the time of installation in 2013. It had also reviewed the current technological level among students, teachers and their views on it. CGPL authorities invest a lot of energy in keeping the local communities involved and engaged on every front. Project Sujaan is no exception to this norm. Everytime a new computer kiosk is launched or a workshop is planned or a school is awarded for a project, the community heavy weights are invited to participate.
The efforts are now beginning to pay dividends. Students of schools participating in the Project are not only scoring higher grades, they report that they find their classroom lessons far more ‘interesting and interactive’. “As a result we teachers can pack in much more work in much less time,” enthuses Patel“Project Sujaan is like that key masala (ingredient) that can turn a bowl of bland daal (lentils) into a lip smacking delicacy.”
And going by their performance it is evident that Singh and his students are enjoying the feast thoroughly.