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ThinkSharp Foundation, a focused and successful NGO is forging ahead with a vision “To bridge the Rural-Urban education divide"

ThinkSharp Foundation, a focused and successful NGO is forging ahead with a vision “To bridge the Rural-Urban education divide.”  It is working relentlessly towards its’ goal of improving the quality of rural education in schools and after school hours, increasing school enrolment, reducing school dropouts and improving the learning outcomes in rural children.

CSR Times spoke to its Founder Santosh Phad, to gain an insight into the perspective of this dynamic visionary.

CSR Times: Can you let us know about your background and whether it was instrumental in influencing your current venture?  if so, how?

SP: I was born and raised in a small village called Mandwa, in the Parali taluka, District Beed, Maharashtra. This village is in the Marathwada region, which is known as a backward area with poor access to quality education, logistics, healthcare, clean water, housing, and employment compared to other parts of the state. 

I completed my primary education from the Government school (Zilla Parishad School) in the same village and then moved to a semi-urban place for further studies. From school to university, I studied in rural or semi-urban areas, where I had very limited or no access to modern educational tools such as computers, libraries, or educational material, that is easily available in most urban schools.

During my MBA course in Mumbai, I realized the difference between rural and urban education.  Most of my peers from urban education institutes had easy access to digital learning tools, various books, and sports material in their school days, and they were fluent in English, while I was lagging behind in these areas. 

CSR Times: Could you please trace the beginning and development of ThinkSharp Foundation?

SP: With my first-hand experience of the rural-urban divide, I decided to work on the challenges posed in rural education, and thus began my journey towards establishing a social enterprise. I founded the “Think Sharp Foundation” in 2011 with a vision “To bridge the Rural-Urban education divide”. 

In rural areas, the educational landscape faces a critical challenge: As per ASER 2022 report only 42.8% of grade V students can read at a grade II level, and a mere 25.6% can perform division. As we navigate the dynamic 21st century, it’s clear that our future workforce demands skills that transcend foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN).

However, the current state of education presents significant obstacles. Shockingly, more than 21% of schools lack access to even a basic library, depriving students of essential resources for learning and exploration. Furthermore, an alarming 77% of schools lack proper computer facilities, impeding students from acquiring vital digital literacy skills. 

We recognize the pressing issues that rural schools face, including insufficient physical and educational infrastructure, a shortage of well-trained teachers, imbalanced learner-educator ratios, and various other obstacles. These factors collectively contribute to the unfortunate lack of quality education in rural areas. The education system in rural India needs immediate attention and transformation.

CSR Times: Can you throw some light on the key initiatives undertaken by your venture?

SP: StudyMall draws inspiration from the concept of shopping malls, bringing modern education under a single roof. As part of the StudyMall initiative, we collaborate closely with school authorities, parents, village committees, and other social enterprises. Our collective goal is to revolutionize village schools into contemporary learning hubs.

Through a fusion of physical, digital infrastructure and trained fellows, StudyMall is dedicated to equipping children with the essential skills they need for 21st-century education. By leveraging collaborative efforts, we strive to create an environment where students can thrive and excel in a rapidly evolving world. Together, we are shaping the future of education in rural communities, one innovative step at a time.

Some of our programs in school:

– Digital tools (Digital Class)

– Library (Book Mitra)

– Computer education (Computer Mitra)

– Solar Power (Solar Shala)

– STEM Education (STEM Mitra)

– Education on wheel (Vidyarath)

– Rural Fellowship 

– Physical infrastructure upgradation

– Workshops / trainings on academic & non-academic topics

As on date we have transformed more than 250 rural schools and directly benefitted more than 5000 children.

These bright shades of positivity and optimism by ThinkSharp Foundation add a bright hue to the rainbow of hope that illuminates the firmament of rural and urban education!

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