The Community Services Wing of the Foundation works intensively with communities in all its project areas to improve the quality and access to education. Initiatives range from running Bala Badis (pre-schools), to working with government schools, to supporting meritorious children. The Foundation also works with children of migrant labour. GMRVF encourages the holistic development of children through supporting co-curricular and extracurricular activities. A special focus is laid on coaching Government school children for various entrance and eligibility tests. With such coaching support, many children have got admission to Navodaya and Ekalavya schools and excellent higher educational institutions.
Many longitudinal studies reveal that education alone has contributed to poverty reduction in a sustainable manner. However, ensuring quality education to every child of the country has been a great challenge.
Many students in the communities where Foundation works are first generation learners and GMRVF strives to support government schools to meet the needs of these students. Some of the challenges these schools face are low student-teacher ratio, lack of quality infrastructure, teaching and learning material, etc.
The Foundation strives to ensure children in its target communities are able to access quality educational experience. The objective is to supplement the Govt. education system. GMRVF's educational interventions are primarily aimed at filling gaps in an existing govt program , that will make it more effective and outcome oriented.
Appala Raju hails from Kondavalasa village in Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh. Following the untimely death of his father when he was only 7 years old, his young mother courageously took over the responsibility of raising her children by working as a farmer.
Due to her perseverance, Raju was able to complete his graduation from a local Degree College. However, after graduating, he remained clueless on what to do next.
It was at this time that he heard about the ‘Pratibha’ Centre at Rajam and enrolled as a member. Pratibha library-cum-career counselling center established by GMR Varalakshmi Foundation helps rural youth get to know about various career options and to prepare for competitive exams by providing them with study material, and organizing coaching, career counselling, mock interviews and group discussions.
The counsellors at Pratibha exposed him to various career options. Inspired, he began travelling around 30 kms every day to attend the coaching classes. He spent 4-5 hours a day reading the books available in the library.
In the beginning, he appeared for many competitive tests conducted by different Govt. agencies but was unable to clear the exams. However, the counsellors encouraged him to not give up.
Ultimately, he got selected as a clerk for Andhra Bank. Raju says he will forever be grateful to GMRVF for guiding him and enabling him to provide for his family.
Sukanya Devi hails from the village of Kuleth, Himachal Pradesh, where GMR Group’s Bajoli-Holi Hydro Power Project is located. Her family consists of her father who works as a peon, her mother and four siblings. Due to the family’s dire financial situation, Sukanya was unable to pursue her graduation though she was very interested. Instead, she supported her parents by tending to household chores and looking after her siblings.
It was during this period that GMR Varalakshmi Foundation (GMRVF) developed a program to support the higher education of girls from low income families in the area, through Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In consultation with community leaders, Sukanya was identified as an eligible beneficiary for B.A degree. The GMRVF team ensured her timely enrolment with IGNOU and supported her course fees. She was thrilled to have been selected in the program and began studying devotedly again.
A few months later, Sukanya was appointed as a para teacher by the Panchayat and Parents-Teachers association in a nearby Govt. school. The school pays her a monthly honorarium to teach Hindi and Sanskrit to middle school students. Her family, neighbours and friends are proud to say that she is the only girl in the village who is simultaneously studying and working. She has emerged as a ray of hope for her students on how to overcome difficult circumstances and move forward in life.
12 year old Aishwariya Panwar hails from Pandukeshwar village near Badrinath in Uttarakhand where GMR Group is planning a Hydropower Project. Her father works hard in order to provide for the large joint family. She was attending Std. V in a local government school when GMRVF staff invited her to join GMRVF’s After-School Learning Centre (ASLC).
GMRVF’S after-school activities are aimed at engaging children beyond school hours to facilitate their holistic development through various co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. The program aims to improve the learning standards through revisions and additional teaching support. On joining one such centre, Aishwariya proved to be a stellar student and one would find her pouring over her books or helping her classmates.
With the support and encouragement of GMRVF staff, Aishwarya enrolled to participate in the district level Vidhyarthi Vigyan Manthan (VVM) exam. VVM is a nationwide science talent search examination held annually. It is a unique initiative that aims to inculcate and generate scientific temper and nurture students for a career in pure sciences. The science and maths exam is organised by eminent scientists and academicians associated with Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous organisation under Dept. of Science and Technology, and National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT).
Aishwarya excitedly participated in the exam and stood 2nd at the district level. The achievement has boosted her confidence, and has given her hope that she will someday become a scientist.
Her father, Akhilesh Panwar says, “GMRVF’s continuous support and guidance is the key to her success”.
7-year old Ajay Kumar hails from Mohanpur Village near GMR Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation (DFCC) project in UP. Ajay’s family belongs to Musahar community which is one of the most socially and economically marginalized communities in the country. Though some of these community members do labour work and manage to buy their food, others have to manage with what they can find.
Ajay’s family consists of eight people, who are dependent on the ancestral work of leaf-plate making for marriages and functions. Going to school was a distant dream for Ajay, as like many other children in his community, he had to support elders in making the ends meet.
Last year, GMR Varalakshmi Foundation, in association with Govt. Education Department, spearheaded a campaign called “School Chalo Abhiyaan” in his village, with the objective to ensure 100% enrolment of eligible children in schools. Several awareness rallies, meetings and individual counseling sessions with parents resulted in enrollment of children from the Musahar community including Ajay, in schools for the very first time.
A recent visit by the Foundation team to the school revealed that Ajay is performing exceedingly well in studies and he got 1st rank in the final exam conducted by the school last year. Ajay has become a role model in his community and several other parents have come forward to put their children in schools.
Mamatha lives near the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. Her father Anjaneyulu is differently-abled and runs a petty shop at home, while her mother works as a wage laborer. Mamatha was selected under Gifted Children program by GMRVF. She was admitted into GMR Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Shamshabad. She is now in Std. IX.
"Initially I felt nervous at the school as I was unable to follow English which teachers and other students spoke, but the teachers and GMRVF staff supported me to overcome my inhibitions and made me self-confident" she says.
Mamatha excels in academics and is also good at painting and sports. She aspires to become an IAS Officer and serve the poor and needy!
Meet Aakash who lives in Savda, Delhi. He was once a very shy and reticent child and used to feel nervous to ask his teachers about his doubts, to face exams and even to speak in front of a group. But that was history now! GMRVF motivated young Aakash to join the ASLC Programme. Aakash started attending its curricular and co-curricular activities.
His achievements here improved Aakash's self-confidence and he never looked back. His confidence spilled over to his regular academics too. "Pahle mein khul ke bol nahin pata tha, ab mein kisi bhi jagah aatm-vishwaash ke saath baat kar leta hoon aur school mein sawal poochhane mein darata nahin hoon. Mujhe ab exam se bhi darr nahin lagata hain" (Earlier I was unable to speak freely but now I can speak fluently in any forum. I can now confidently ask questions in school and face examinations as confidently), says Aakash reflecting the same confidence in his words.
Ravi Kishore hails from a poor family in a village near Rajam of Andhra Pradesh. His father works as a daily wage laborer and his income is hardly sufficient to meet the household needs. Ravi passed his intermediate examination with more than 90% marks and dreamed of becoming an engineer. However, poverty forced him to settle for a normal degree course. Recognizing his interest in Engineering Education, GMRVF staff and teachers encouraged him to join B. Tech (Civil) in GMR Institute of Technology. Through its MOU with Andhra Bank, Foundation facilitated Rs 1.20 lakh loan from the Bank, beside provided Rs 38, 000 as interest free loan.
Ravi completed his B. Tech in 2010 and joined an aluminum unit at Vizag as a trainee engineer. Ravi is now happy in being able to share the burden of his father and thanks GMRVF for supporting him in realizing his dream.
Bharti Verma was born in Raikheda village, Chhattisgarh and is part of a family of 5. Her father supports the family by undertaking agricultural labour. On completing her secondary education, she considered staying at home and helping her parents with housework since the closest college is 20 kms away.
GMR Varalakshmi Foundation observed that like Bharti, other girl children from Raikheda and nearby villages opted out of higher education because commuting to college was difficult. Apart from families being unable to afford the high college transportation fees, they were also worried about safety and security.
For these reasons, since 2010, GMRVF has been providing free college transportation facilities for girl children from 4 villages. Until now the initiative has helped 285 girls complete their graduation. Bharti was also able to finish her B.Sc. and is currently working in a government school. Her parents are also extremely happy that their daughter is the first family member who is a graduate.