Pune : Smile Foundation, a national level development organisation, has pledged to liberate 19,000 children from the bondage of child labour and illiteracy and send and retain them in schools through its nationwide initiative ‘Mission Education’.
At present, more than 2000 children are enrolled in the Mission Education centres that are operational in Maharashtra region. There are 11 ongoing projects in the state, two of which are in Pune.
Smile Foundation and Sevadham Trust have taken up a joint initiative in Maharashtra for integrated community development, focusing on children, mothers and adolescents, particularly those deprived and neglected in the society. The project intervenes in the slum clusters of Bibvewadi, Panmala, and Janata Vasahat, and benefits 200 children directly. The centre has facilities like computer centre, library, crèches and static clinics.
Saraswati Anath Ashram at Dopadi is another Mission Education centre under Smile Foundation that has 25 children in the age group of 5-16 years. All of these children are orphans who call the place their home. Now, they are moving towards a bright future with proper education and a lot of love and care. Adding more to their happiness are the new library and computer centre that have been introduced at the centre.
Besides these two centres in Pune, Maharashtra has nine other centres, namely Society for Human and Environmental Development (SHED), Sparsha Charitable Trust, Amcha Ghar, Zenith Education & Welfare Trust (Holy Mother English School), and Manav Sevak Educational & Medical Research Foundation in Mumbai; Bahujan Hitay Trust, Kalyan; Ajit Foundation, Barshi; Trilokya Boudha Mahasangha Sahayak Gan (TBMSG), Ratnagiri; and Gosavi Bahuuddeshiya Sanstha, Nashik.
Mr. Santanu Mishra Co-Founder and Executive Trustee, Smile Foundation, says, “Education is the key to lead a dignified life. Through Mission Education, Smile Foundation provides basic education and healthcare to underprivileged children, finally mainstreaming them to formal education. Mission Education brings underprivileged children to the fold of education who otherwise would have missed the chance of empowerment for another generation.”
Through Mission Education, Smile Foundation aims to address the issues relating to underprivileged children – the children who are ‘at risk’, mainly orphans, child-labourers, street children, and victims of poverty. Their parents being illiterate do not understand the benefits of education, thus unwittingly depriving their next generations of the chance to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty and ignorance.
To bring the children to school, Smile Foundation encourages their parents first, through rigorous counselling sessions. Once the parents allow their children to join school, efforts are made to make the school child-friendly, so that an environment conducive for learning is created. Unlike normal school-going students, these children are first generation learners, who find coping with textbooks difficult. Teachers are hence trained and introduced to new methodologies and tools that are used to make learning interesting and effective among the students.
Libraries are set up at the centres, so that inquiry learning, knowledge and confidence among the students are built. The libraries are stocked with story books, educational games and puzzles, so that the habit of reading among the children is promoted and they are introduced to a whole new world of imagination.
Through computer education programme, Smile Foundation makes efforts to enhance the quality of learning and match the same with recognised schools where the children are mainstreamed. Teachers are being given hands-on training to facilitate computer-enabled learning for the children.
”At present, Smile Foundation has 90 Mission Education projects functional across 21 states of India. Last year 87% of eligible children have been mainstreamed to reputed formal schools after successfully passing out from the Mission Education centres, further ensuring a bright future for them”, adds Mr. Mishra.