‘We Focus On Creating Education Transformation Solutions’

Dr Y. Suresh Reddy, Director, SRF Foundation, in a tête-à-tête with CSR TIMES said parents, government and private schools, corporates, NGOs and community in general all have a role to play in realizing the Right to Education Act.

SRF Foundation works on education we believe, what is the focus—school education or vocational courses to bridge the gap?
SRF Foundation works on both the issues of school education and vocational skills by targeting the out of schoolchildren, school-going students and school dropouts.

What was the first project of SRF Foundation and when was it initiated? How did the idea strike?
Though the Foundation has been serving the society since 1982, it started a structured programme for Rural Education Transformation in selected 40 government schools in 2009 in Mewat district of Haryana. Today, the programme has been spread across seven states impacting the education of 40,000 students attending 130 government schools.

Were any changes made in the foundation’s programmes following enactment of the CSR policy in the Companies Act of 2013? Has the foundation gained from the Act in terms of getting more funds?
Before the Companies Act of 2013, CSR at SRF was happening at various levels and business verticals driven by passion and business needs. Post the Companies Act of 2013, it was amalgamated and routed through the SRF Foundation. This structural adjustment naturally increased the funding of SRF Foundation.

You partner with NGOs, corporates as well as the government. How would you grade them on the accountability factor?
Instead of grading them on accountability, the Foundation reflects its accountability towards them and the cause it is working for. While we carry our CSR mandate at ground level, we build collaborations with like-minded agencies by seeing the synergy between what we are doing and what the
partners wish to do. We come together with similar objectives that ensures greater participation and accountability among us.

What provision does the Shriram Schools have for underprivileged children? What are the criteria for admissions and where are the schools located?
The Foundation has set up its first Shriram School in the year 1988 and it runs two schools from kindergarten to Class XII operational in three campuses spread in Gurgaon and New Delhi. These schools follow the right to education (RTE) norms for admissions prescribed by the Delhi and Haryana governments. We greatly leverage the Shriram School’s experience and expertise both in the areas of academic and non-academics for quality education at government schools.

Does the Shriram Millennium also have seats reserved for the underprivileged children? How is Shriram Millennium different from Shriram schools?
Shriram Millennium schools are owned and run by Educom with technical and branding assistance from our sister concern Shri Educare Pvt. Ltd. The Foundation is not connected with these schools.

Have you aligned your school programmes with the Sarva Shikshya Abhiyan (SSA )?
As we work with government schools for education transformation, we have aligned our work not only with SSA but also with Rashtriya Madhyamik Shikshya Abhiyan (RMSA), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), Digital India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill India and Right to Education Act as well.

What is your view on the Right to Education Act which guarantees free education up to the age of 14?
Yes, it provides free education. But somebody has to take the responsibility to ensure it. Parents, government and private schools, corporates, NGOs and community in general everybody has a role to play in realizing this, as law alone doesn’t guarantee that free education means commitment and action from different quarters.

Do you have programmes to help children continue their education after the age of 14?
Yes, we work with the children beyond 14 years of age to ensure their learning continuum through career counselling, scholarships, vocational skills programmes and academic support, etc.

Tell us about a programme of srf foundation which has brought great changes in the lives of children. Give us some case studies.
As we address the holistic issues of school education, we have rolled out variety of programmes addressing the needs of out of schoolchildren, girl children, infrastructure, technology application, teacher training, school leadership, vocal skills, sports development, etc. Each one is complimenting the other. As a result, the entire school gets transformed over a period of time in a holistic manner where a student gets holistic development opportunities. Our Mewat Rural Education Programme is an example and it has been scaled to ten other locations spread across seven states.

You have many projects in Mewat. Why Mewat? What are the important programmes there and how has been the response?
Mewat in Haryana is one of the 11 operational areas spread across the country. When the Foundation started working at the ground level in 2009, it chose Mewat as a test bed to create solutions for educational transformation as it was lagging behind educationally, is a minority-dominated district as well as is least developed on socio-economic parameters compared to many of its neighbours. We exclusively work for school education and skilling
under the umbrella programme of Mewat Rural Education Programme. As this programme scaled to ten other locations, it is simply called Rural Education Programme. The initial response was apprehensive, similar to other locations. But today, we are a well respected and received agency in the
region.

Please elaborate on the CSR programmes in your plant areas.
We have nine plant locations spread across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand. After successful launch and implementation of Mewat Rural Education Programme, we have scaled up this programme to all of these locations as well as in Karnataka where we have plants operational.

Will you like to tell us about your budget for this fiscal and the programmes you are going to stress on?
Our own CSR budget is `9.6 crore planned for school education, skilling and midday meal programmes. In addition to this we leverage external funding through partnerships.

We would like to know how you choose your partners. What are the parameters?
It is very simple. We do not have fundraising division or marketing division. We focus all our energies on execution and creating education transformation solutions as it is our differentiator. When a potential partner approaches us by knowing our work, we see the synergy between what we are doing and what they wish to do. When we arrive at a common ground, it facilitates further partnership building process. Instead of us choosing
our partners, we are chosen by them because of our credibility, capability and maturity. However, government is our natural partner as we work with government schools. So we approach them and rest of the partners join hands in due course.

In your personal opinion, do you think businesses in India are doing enough on sustainability and social responsibility?
Compared to few years back, businesses are now more sensitive to societal needs driven by business needs, Companies Act and philanthropic efforts.