Principal channels CSR funds, sets makeover template for govt schools

Gurgaon: Little scholars in their sundry uniforms head towards a dusty pink building on a nippy winter morning in Basai. Chatting about the upcoming examination and reciting multiplication tables, they are getting ready for another day at the Government Senior Secondary School here.
From the outside, there?s nothing extraordinary about the scene but as you enter, a pleasant surprise awaits.

Neatly furnished classrooms, a library and lab form part of an encouraging attempt to give these children quality education infrastructure, all thanks to an experiment by Brahm Prakash Shastri, a former principal of the school.

By bypassing administrative procedures and seeking help directly from NGOs, and tapping various corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, Shastri?s endeavours have ended up benefiting teachers as well as some 20 government schools in the district. And it?s the power of community, he believes, which has helped turn his simple idea into gold, in the space of four years.

As a rule, to channel CSR funds, corporates and NGOs must approach the education department but this is a process that can, and often does, take a long time. ?And all the donations don?t necessarily reach us,? admits Shastri, who eventually sought the assistance of the big companies, with due approval from the education department. Now, the govt school in Basai has an impressive science and computer lab, an RO water purifier for clean drinking water, refurbished toilets, a diesel genset and split air-conditioners, besides well-furnished classes and staff rooms. Behind all this is teamwork.

Villagers, for example, have contributed by whitewashing the walls. ?Several local NGOs approached us for basic things, like installing RO and donating books. We then asked the companies to invest directly and they have helped (with) the entrance, walking tracks and boundary walls,? Shastri adds.

According to a notification under Section 135 of The Companies Act 2013, it is compulsory for companies with a net worth of Rs 500 crore or more, turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or net profit of Rs 5 crore or more, in any given financial year, to spend two percent of their net profit on CSR programmes.

And following the successful Basai model, government schools in Carterpuri, Jacobpura, Tikri, Shakurpur, Bhondsi and Tikli (and one in Sarsa, Bhiwani), have undergone renovation. The Tikri school, TOI found, is getting a new washroom for boys, girls and handicapped children (courtesy a North American real estate firm). Tulsiram, the principal here, happily acknowledges the transformation. ?Our school was initially in a very bad condition ? there was no sewer connection and the boundary wall was in a dilapidated state,? he recalls, sitting in his office-cum-staff room. ?We are not aware of the expenditure, but this CSR activity has brought a positive change in the school.?

Indeed, in two years, CSR funds have ensured that the Tikri govt school is not lacking when it comes to the bare essentials, among them a water tank, utensils for midday meals, a level playground and washrooms.

Dinesh Shastri, the district education officer, has visited 20 such schools across the state and claims that facilities are on a par with those in private schools. ?The drop-out rate has come down heavily too,? he says.

However, for all the progress in infrastructure development, there are still more than 30,000 vacancies for teachers in the state. The data report card of the District Information System for Education (U-DISE) corroborates this fact, pointing out the acute shortage of teachers and principals in Haryana.

Still, with over 540 government schools in the district, there is no dearth of corporate majors who are prepared to come forward and do their bit towards make the learning ecosystem more welcoming and fun for children.

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