This year more than ever, we recognised that our reliance on technology has helped us transition to working from home, virtual schooling, meetups and virtual recreation making way for the ‘new normal’. While some of us are fortunate to have access to a stable internet connection and electronic devices, many people in the rural and underprivileged communities lack access to these conveniences, and they have been affected through these uncertain times.
The continuation of education for children in rural communities was particularly challenging. In commemoration of Ramboll’s 75th anniversary, Ramboll’s CSR committee in India made a donation that went towards providing broadband connections and e-education kits to children in the rural districts of Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Telangana benefitting about 1,500 children across different age groups.
In Tamil Nadu, this activity was conducted in liaison with Aid India. Deepika and Anantharaman, third-grade students, were unable to attend online classes as they did not have access to a smartphone. However, now they can attend English and Mathematics classes online, which has made their learning interactive and fun.
Each e-education kit consists of a digital tablet, screen guard, protective pouch, headphones and pre-loaded apps for English, Tamil and Mathematics to ensure that children can catch-up on the basic skills and their grade-level skills. Ramboll’s IT team was consulted on the specifications and usability of the tablets to ensure that they serve the intended purpose. A total of 60 kits were distributed across schools and villages depending on the number of children in the area. Teachers from the local schools act as mentors to the children and follow-up on their progress while also sharing an assessment report that enables them to offer more support to those children that are behind in their learnings.
A similar initiative was run in Haryana’s Faridabad district in liaison with SOS Village, where digital tablets were distributed to underprivileged children to enable them access to online classes. One of the student beneficiaries said “I am happy that I can now continue my classes, and I have not missed a single English class since I received my tablet. I also attend other classes on my subjects using the internet, which really helps us in making good presentations. Information is now just one touch away.”
In Telangana Hyderabad, Ramboll donated INR 300,000 towards enabling broadband connections to at least 350 households to facilitate online learning to children who are missing out on school. This initiative was conducted in liaison with Udbhav Schools, which is run by a charitable trust for underprivileged children and managed by IIM Ahmedabad.
Vidya Basarkod, Chairperson CSR Committee India and Director – REC said “Though the pandemic has been indiscriminate in affecting everyone’s life, I think the hardest hit are the young children in poor communities. As schools remain shut, their only recourse to a better life – education – is in danger. Virtual classes are a big help, but the IT infrastructure is found wanting. The challenge of turning these children into a generation of confident and self-reliant adults is a responsibility of us all; the enormity of this challenge is now in sharp focus. I am not sure how much this initiative would help, but I am happy that we have made a beginning and hope to make a difference however small.”