American companies and organizations have expressed interest in a
unique initiative to help children in rural and semi-urban India
get access to better educational facilities.
Among them is Global Water Challenge, a coalition of leading
organizations committed to universal access to water, sanitation
and hygiene, which has helped spread awareness in US about
"Support My School" campaign launched by Coca-Cola India and NDTV
GWC "has sought to leverage the programme's impact by supporting
outreach to US based organizations and individuals" and in
conjunction with Coca-Cola India "has brought new partners to the
table including H2O for Life, Merck and Weston Solutions," Monica
Ellis, CEO, Global Water Challenge told IANS.
"GWC will continue its support of the campaign into 2012 by
engaging new organizations in the effort to reach more schools
across India," she said after a presentation here last week.
Besides providing libraries, teacher training, computer and
internet access, playgrounds and sports equipment the project aims
to provide improved access and sanitation facilities as one in two
children, particularly girls, drop out of schools by eighth grade
because of lack of basic amenities like clean water and toilets.
J.P. Morgan, Cummins, Rotary International and the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) have expressed
interest in the campaign which has already revitalised 26 schools
at a cost of $11,000 each Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat,
Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
With $1.4 million pledged for the campaign, work has begun in over
50 schools in 10 states across India. "We aim to complete 100
schools by April 2012. After that, we would target taking up at
least another 200 schools," said Deepak Jolly, Sr VP Coca-Cola
India and South West Asia.
"We have launched a youth ambassador programme to channelise the
power of youth to the campaign," he said as many students have
expressed interest in working on the campaign supported by the
likes of cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar.
"Students studying in US on their summer break in India have
contributed tremendously and we are seeing a lot of interest in
youngsters from India and US to contribute and strengthen the
campaign," Jolly said.
UN-HABITAT, which has been part of the campaign from the beginning
has contributed towards drafting the framework of 'Support My
School' apart from contributing towards the core corpus of the
Learning partner, Pearson Foundation has provided for libraries
and teacher training in these schools besides sponsoring one
cluster of six schools.
USAID itself has not become a partner as yet, but its Assistant
Administrator for Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal, came out in all out
support for this important initiative. Stressing the importance of
school infrastructure improvement for economic development, she
encouraged more and more US firms to join.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)