INNOVATION @ GRASSROOTS

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SummaryShiv Nadar often says that he is a product of education. Through his philanthropic arm, the founder and chairman of the $6.2 billion, 100,000 people-strong HCL Group is doing what he believes is closest to his heart—to build future leaders from rural India via free high quality school education.

these brilliant minds are nurtured and empowered with knowledge to become the leaders of tomorrow.”

VidyaGyan has a methodical selection process to handpick potential talent from rural and economically disadvantaged backgrounds from across the state of Uttar Pradesh. Children from rural background with an annual household income of not more than R1 lakh and those who have topped Class 5 Junior State Examination and have studied in a rural government school for at least three consecutive years are shortlisted to appear in the entrance exam, administered by VidyaGyan in partnership with UP government.

“Corporate philanthropy is new in India and we cannot replace the government’s efforts,” says Adhikari, who is also president and global head for corporate strategy at HCL.

“We are different from other initiatives in the sense that we purchase the land at market rates and build the infrastructure facilities. The Foundation is developing a technology driven primary school programme in collaboration with HCL, ‘Shiksha’, currently being tested in rural UP, in partnership with the government,” he adds.

The curriculum at VidyaGyan is reviewed at regular intervals and changes are made accordingly. “We believe that teaching our students to communicate fluently in English is important for preparing them to become future leaders. Along with special courses in English language, imparting computer education is also vital. Our students benefit from the computer labs (fully equipped with internet, printers and scanners) for learning and research activities,” says Adhikari.

The Foundation’s relentless efforts are bearing fruit and a confident and beaming student fraternity is testimony to that. “I always dreamt of becoming an Indian Air Force pilot, now I know that I can,” says Rahul Kundan, a 13-year-old student of eighth class student of VidyaGyan. He was one of his school’s toppers at Jalaun in Kanpur district. “Education is quite tech-oriented and imparted through video conferencing, audio-visual classes, projection systems and computer labs,” he informs. Says Sonia Singh, a 14-year-old student of ninth class, “It is a wonderful school with practical learning of concepts with the aid of modern classrooms and science and mathematics labs. I want to become a doctor and directly impact thousands and tens-of-thousands of lives over the long-term.”

There is no doubt that VidyaGyan provides these children free, world-class education to help transcend the disadvantages they face and compete with their urban counterparts. The Foundation’s unique initiative to create future leaders from India’s rural heartland is praise-worthy. But can it be a blueprint

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