The activities of the GMR Group as also the Foundation kicked off from Rajam, Srikakulam. Foundation activities were initiated mainly for the welfare of the sugarcane farmers and residents of Rajam and other villages surrounding the GMR sugar factory and the GMR Ferro Alloy factory.
The earliest initiatives were philanthropic in nature, like running educational institutions, providing education scholarships, financial assistance for medical treatment and distribution of clothes and food to the needy. The nature of activities has evolved since and has also increased in depth and scope. Today the focus is on sustainable community based initiatives.
The Education Wing of the Foundation runs several educational institutes at Rajam including GMR Institute of Technology; SGCSR Degree College, and several schools. The Community Services Wing which is responsible for initiatives aimed at improving the lives and livelihoods of the poor through community-based programmes, also have a strong presence in the area.
Initiatives in and around Rajam:
Education Wing:GMRVF runs educational institutions with the aim of bringing quality education to the under-served areas and sections of the community.
The Foundation has set up several state-of-art educational institutions with a view to increase access to good education in remote rural areas that lack these facilities. These educational institutions are contributing significantly to improving educational standards in this remote area.
Currently the Foundation is involved in the following educational institutions at Rajam and the surrounding villages:
The Foundation also facilitates scholarships and educational loans to ensure that deserving students, irrespective of their financial backgrounds, have access to these institutions
GMR Institute of Technology:
The institute, situated in Rajam, Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh, is an ISO certified engineering college affiliated to the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University. GMRIT has emerged as a premier institute offering Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering in seven engineering streams to over 1800 students. Its Chemical, Mechanical, Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Electronic and Chemical Engineering & Information Technology courses are accredited by NBA (National Accreditation Board). It also offers specialized post-graduate courses.
The Institute encourages collaborative learning between industry and academia as a means of enriching its curriculum with practical and real world experiences. It is this emphasis on a well-rounded education that makes GMRIT a preferred institute among engineering colleges in India. GMRIT, through an MOU with Andhra Bank, facilitates educational loans for those who need them. (www.gmrit.org)
Sri GCSR Degree College :
An English Medium college established in the year 1993, SGCSR offers Intermediate Education, Bachelor Degree Programmes in Science, Arts, Commerce and Computer Applications, and a Post Graduate Degree in Mathematics. The college will offer a Post graduate degree in Computer Applications (MCA) from the coming academic year, and is also in the process of introducing a Bachelor’s degree in Education (B.Ed.).
The college with over 850 students, is affiliated to the Andhra University. The college stresses on holistic development of students and encourages them to take part in various extra-curricular activities. Nearly 100 bright students of SGCSR, who cannot afford the college fee, are given scholarships under various support schemes.
Bhavan’s Varalakshmi Vidyashram:
The Foundation focuses on making quality primary education accessible in remote areas. GMRVF has built a full-fledged school with the necessary infrastructure at Rajam and has handed it over to Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan (BVV) for its administration and management. The Foundation absorbs the financial deficit of the school.
BVV, which began operations in 2001 is a co-educational, English Medium school affiliated to the CBSE Board. Over 650 students from in and around Rajam study at BVV. The 2006-07 batch of Std. X students of the school not only passed with First Class but have received high percentage of marks as well.
Seethamahalakshmi DAV School :
On the lines of BVV, GMRVF has also built and handed over a full-fledged school at Sankili, to Dayanand Anglo Vedic Society. SMLDAV established in 2004 follows the CBSE syllabus. Nearly 300 boys and girls from the Sankili district, Andhra Pradesh and its neighbourhood come to study in SMLDAV. The school presently has classes from K.G. to Std. VII, and plans to add Std. VIII in the coming academic year.
St. Ann ’s School:
The Foundation has also constructed and handed over St. Ann’s, a full-fledged school at Rajam to St. Ann’s Missionaries for administration and management.
The Foundation facilitates scholarships to ensure that deserving students, irrespective of their financial backgrounds, have access to these institutions. For instance 71 students of DAV, who are the children of small farmers, were given concessions/freeships during 2006-07.
More schools are planned in the coming year at different locations.
Community Services Wing
Supporting Government Efforts for Education:
GMRVF works with the government to improve the quality of education in government schools through various programmes. The Foundation works with nearly 50 schools in Rajam and its surrounding villages. GMRVF has appointed Vidya Volunteers (VVs) in these schools where the student-teacher ratios are poor. The VVs are from the village itself and specially trained through Foundation training programmes to effectively work with the students as well as the community. The volunteers teach in the school and also work in the community to reduce dropouts and to make parents active stakeholders in the education of their children. There are around 58 VVs imparting education to around 2200 children. Around 950 child labourers have been enrolled back in schools due to the perseverant efforts of programmes such as these.
In close to 60 schools, contributions have been made to improve infrastructure. Support is also provided for innovative and joyful education through provision of Teacher-Learning materials to government schools and through facilitating teacher trainings, exposure visits and excursion trips etc.
Recognizing the importance of pre-school education, GMRVF has established 43 Bala Badis in Rajam and surrounding villages and slums. These Bala Badis work with 3-5 year old children to provide joyful learning, inculcation of good habits etc. A nutritious snack is provided daily to the children and efforts are made to develop the innate abilities of the children through activities like songs, games etc. The concerted efforts with this age group helps in school-preparedness and also gets parents motivated and involved in their children’s learning. Another key role that BBs play is to help keep older siblings in schools. Often, older sisters or brothers have to stay at home to look after younger ones when the parents are away at work. By taking care of the younger children, the Bala Badis help the older siblings to attend school. Around 1100 children attend GMRVF Bala Badis in these villages.
These activities have been designed with the conviction that there is a need to engage with children beyond school hours to facilitate their holistic development. There is a balanced focus on curricular and co-curricular inputs to ensure the holistic development of the children. The programme aims to nurture hidden talents in children by encouraging them to participate in cultural events, debates, elocution and quizzes etc. It also tries to improve the learning standards of slow learners through bridge courses (mainly tuitions and revisions). This programme is being run in about 55 government schools in Rajam and surrounding villages with over 4000 students benefiting out of it.
It was observed that while textbooks at Std. IX and X level often recommend experiments, it is difficult to practice experiments in reality as schools may lack lab facilities. At Rajam since GMRVF has a college with full-fledged labs, it was felt that these facilities could be leveraged during summer holidays to give government school students an opportunity for hands-on learning. This programme is designed in a way that it allows children to learn beyond their curriculum. It aims to get the students involved in doing the science experiments so as to cultivate their scientific temper and expose them to new ways of thinking and learning.. With this intention, in May 2006 a camp was held for 80 students who had just entered Std. X from seven high schools in and around Rajam. Since then, similar camps have been organized. Around 80 students attended the programme held in September, 2006 and 100 students in the workshop held in May 2007. Children are not only taught theory in the Science and Mathematics classes at these camps, but are also provided lab sessions. Students have also been introduced to teaching and learning via laptops. The method focuses on the heuristic aspects of teaching and learning in a PC enabled class environment.
School Health Check-ups:
The Foundation realizes that health check-ups are important for healthy development and for detecting serious ailments early on. Timely treatment can therefore be administered to the patient. These check-ups were started in 2002 at Rajam in government schools where the Foundation is working. Health check-ups are conducted at the GMRVF run Bala Badis also. Till now, health check-ups have been held in 50 schools and 33 Bala Badis benefiting more than 2000 children. The Foundation also takes further action after identifying ailments in children during the health check-ups. This is by way of sending them to health camps and hospitals for treatment. Besides this, parents are also counseled and given regular feedback about their ward’s health.
Environmental Education in Schools of Andhra Pradesh (EESAP) is a programme of the Centre for Environment Education (CEE). The purpose is to initiate and strengthen environmental education in schools. Recognising the significance of the programme, GMRVF is implementing EESAP in 22 schools across three blocks at Rajam. Activities like exposure to solar cookers, compost pit, treadle pump and drip irrigation; planting trees, orientation programs and competitions etc. form a part of the programme. EESAP activities have influenced community members as well. In many locations adult community members have provided active support and participation in activities conducted primarily for children and youth.
Gifted Children Programme:
GMRVF has several schemes for helping bright and poor students access quality education. Today the Foundation is supporting over 50 children in and around Rajam to enable them to get education in the best of schools through its ‘Gifted Children Programme. Under this, the children are supported by the Foundation right from kindergarten to professional education. These children are from the poorest of poor families and selected through a rigorous process.
Professional Education Scholarships and Loans for Professional Courses:
The Foundation has been providing scholarships right from the year 1994. Interest-free loans are being provided since 2003. These scholarships and loans help meritorious students from poor financial backgrounds to pursue professional education. Recently these loans have been extended to skill trainings as well. Till now, close to 100 students have benefited from the programme. There have been several instances of students benefiting from these loans and scholarships, with students becoming CAs, engineers, doctors and so on.
Education Van (EVAN):
The ‘school on wheels’ is another initiative of the Foundation in reaching out to school children and communities on various issues concerning Education, Health, Hygiene, Sanitation and Empowerment. The van is equipped with various communication materials that are theme-based and also with other audio-visual aids. The educational materials are ferried in the van and used while conducting activities. The van was launched in January 2007 and at present reaches out to 50 villages in and around Rajam.
Ramanujan Talent Test:
This is a district level mathematics test conducted by Ramanujan Mathematics Association. GMRVF has been facilitating students from Std. V to Std. X in government schools to take this test every year, to create interest in Mathematics among school children. GMRVF not only helps students prepare, but also provides transportation to all the participants to Rajam to attend the test. The sponsored students have been winning District level I and II prizes every year.
These classes promote interaction among students while also enhancing the learning atmosphere through interactive animation, video clips etc. Around 150 such classes have been conducted so far in schools in and around Rajam. The classes have improved the performance of children (in terms of their interest in education, knowledge levels and marks scored). The classes also create awareness in the community on issues related to health, hygiene and sanitation while exposing the students to technology.
Youth Centres: Young people in small towns or remote areas often lack exposure to various education and careers options. They therefore limit their dreams and aspirations. The avenues available to youth for interacting with peers or with mentors, is also limited.
The Prathiba Library and Counseling Centre was started in November 2005 in Rajam, with 360 books and five periodicals. Today, there are more than 265 registered members in the library. The objective of the Centre is to provide a learning environment, career and higher education guidance, to enable the youth to prepare for their future. Pratibha creates a platform for rural youth to develop their soft skills through exchange of information/knowledge/ideas in its regular, weekly and monthly activities. The centre has over 450 books and subscribes to eight regular periodicals and two newspapers.
Mobile Medicare Unit:
GMRVF, in collaboration with Helpage India, is running MMU which caters to over 55 villages in and around Rajam reaching out to around 700 people every week. The idea behind the MMU programme is to reach out to the aged, especially from poor families, and offer them a means to regular medical support. The programme enables older persons to play an active role in maintaining and improving their own health and encouraging others to follow the same. MMUs visit various nodal points in each location every week and provide free check-ups and medicines to the 60+ age group patients. They also attend to lower age groups in case of emergencies and through various health camps.
The Foundation runs an ambulance at Rajam for emergencies. In the areas where this ambulance operates, the timely availability of such a facility to take a patient to a healthcare establishment may make the difference between life and death. Each ambulance attends to 30-40 calls per month, and has saved many a life. Over 550 people have directly benefited from the service.
Health Awareness Programmes:
Awareness and consciousness about issues like personal hygiene, sanitation, nutrition etc. could go a long way in improving the overall health index of the communities. It was with this thinking that the concept of ‘Health Week’ was started in 2005-06. The activities include health rallies, health check ups, puppet shows, sessions by resource persons and discussions with the communities etc. Certain activities like village cleaning etc. are also taken up as part of the health weeks.
Clinics and Health Camps:
Lack of access to health clinics and hospitals coupled with poor economic conditions and inadequate awareness on health care are some of the factors responsible for poor health condition in most remote areas. Keeping these concerns in mind, clinics and health camps were started by the Foundation. Apart from health weeks, multi-purpose health camps are also organized for the community members. So far 56 villages have been covered throughthe periodic health camps benefiting more than 7000 people in and around Rajam.
AIDS related initiatives:
HIV/AIDS spread is rampant in remote villages. A major cause for this, is the lack of awareness about HIV/AIDS, particularly the means of transmission. To stem the spread of HIV/AIDS, it is imperative to spread awareness on the subject among the public and in particular among those who fall in the high risk category. Considering this, AIDS related awareness programmes are being conducted in Rajam and the surrounding villages.
A number of AIDS awareness generation sessions as well as comprehensive AIDS awareness weeks are conducted regularly to reach out to a large number of people. These awareness weeks include a range of activities like competitions, rallies, skits, street plays, quizzes, meetings etc. and target several groups. Various government agencies and stakeholders also support these initiatives. More than 400 people from these areas have been covered through these programmes.
Hygiene and Sanitation
Inadequate public sanitation facilities are a major concern in slums, villages and public places. The women suffer the most, with no privacy or dignity. In response to this, first Suvidha toilet was constructed in Rajam, in 1998. At present there are eight toilets being used by around 2600 people per day. Family cards have been made, by way of which a whole family can use the toilet for just Rs. 10/- per month. Today there are about 650 family card holders, using the public facilities.