Education is the best gift a corporate can give to society

Updated: Mar 31 2008, 04:00am hrs
Enabling education has always been the basic drive of the Astarc Group. To ensure that our commitment towards giving back to society continues, we have committed 5% of our net profits for socially responsible activities. Under this thought comes our commitment to educate 8,000 students every year in various institutions started by the family. Having said that, we have also tried to ensure that it goes beyond a family issue to a corporate decision where everyone in the company contributes to the mission. This will bind the future board to commit this amount for the welfare of the society and plan various programmes to deliver it.

Astarc started a school in Kankavli in district Sindhadurg, Maharashtra. Here 4,000 students get primary and secondary education. We have also started a college in Kankavali, which educates students in streams of art and science. About 3,000 students are on our rolls. In Ichalkaranji, Kolhapur district, we have built a school where 1,000 students are educated every year in primary and secondary schools.

We at Astarc believe that more than providing education to children, it is important to habituate them to come to school. It is seen that if children dont begin school from the first grade, there are chances of them not going to school ever or dropping out soon. This realisation has led us to link up with zila parishad schools in Thane district and attract children to come to school from grade one.

When we made a survey of schools in Vasai (Maharashtra), where the factory of our company Classic Stripesis situated, we found that the attendance in schools is hardly 30%. Most of these schools though funded by the government lack basic facilities like desks, books, clean environment, toilet facilities for girls, drinking water, play tools, charts, science charts, etc. Many of these schools have teachers who are paid a measly Rs 1,200 a month. Astarc then decided to step in, and now provides assistance to about 150 gram panchayat schools in Vasai, Pelhar, Haloi and other areas in the Thane district. We distribute school uniforms, water bottles, notebooks, school bags, writing material, etc to 25,000 students, who primarily are adivasis or from backward classes, on an annual basis.

We have also provided bore wells, painted the schools, supplied them educational and inspirational charts and play tools for their playgrounds, besides helping them pay their electricity bill. We have exposed many teachers to better education facilities, empowered them with computer education so that they can enjoy their knowledge and responsibility of imparting them to students.

For us, its great to witness how these initiatives have helped us with almost 100% attendance of children and of teachers. Today, they take pride in coming to school.

Educationand/or empowering one to get it is the greatest gift anybody can give to the future of a country. I also thank my staff members who have actively participated in the mission and developed hope in the young. Their starry eyes also encourage us to expand our plans and double the count to 50,000 students (on an annual basis) in two years. We plan to build 100 basic schools in the same region in the next three years.

Beyond all these efforts, we at Astarc believe that social responsibility depends more on ones feelings towards a cause rather than spending money on it. With more still to be done on our part and as an industry at large, social responsibility is a subject where one has to do something every day.

(The author is chairman, Astarc Group)