Close this search box.

‘Community engagement key to ensure underserved kids remain in school’

(July 10, 2022)

The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic disrupted the education sector on an unprecedented scale as millions of kids found themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide

Smile Foundation has been one such organisation that has been running it campaign ‘Shiksha Na Ruke’ aimed at bringing drop out children back to school. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)

Access to education for underprivileged kids has always been a matter of concern in India for a long time now despite almost six times the literacy rate since independence. But the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic disrupted the education sector on an unprecedented scale as millions of kids found themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. While kids with adequate resources managed to continue their education through virtual classes, the underprivileged kids – with no mobile phones and computers – were cut off from formal education. The civil society, in general, and many individuals and non-governmental organisations, particularly, played – and are still playing – a massive role in helping underserved children access to education. However, ensuring access and keeping the children in school are two different things.

Smile Foundation has been one such organisation that has been running its campaign ‘Shiksha Na Ruke’ aimed at bringing drop out children back to school and also in enabling uninterrupted learning for children through access to resources needed for their education.

We talked to Mr. Santanu Mishra, co-founder and executive trustee, Smile Foundation, to understand the role of NGO in providing the underprivileged kids access to education, especially in the post-pandemic era, the work needed to ensure the students finish the secondary education, and the challenges faced by them on regular basis in a country as diverse as India. Here are some of the edited excerpts from the interview.

When states have the obligation to provide education to children under RTE, where does an NGO like Smile Foundation come in?

Smile Foundation, with presence in 25 states of India, plays its share of role as a catalyst to facilitate underserved children benefit from the Right To Education Act 2009. As per the provisions, every child between the ages of six to fourteen years shall have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school, till completion of elementary education.

Meaningful participation of the civil society is imperative in order to achieve the efficacy of RTE. While RTE is directed toward providing children with education, the act itself is not enough. Multiple efforts need to be made to raise community awareness and help them avail education. Knowing that education is the key to development, communities need to be sensitised. Right from identification of out of school children, preparing them with age appropriate curriculum through bridge programs admitting them in mainstream schools, and further hand-holding them through Remedial education to avoid their drop out, all these initiatives fulfil the purpose of RTE.

What should be done to ensure that the children are not just brought back to school but stay there to finish schooling?

Interest of a child in being in school is essential for completion of schooling too. The learning-enabling environment with basic facilities of clean drinking water and functional toilets, well-equipped classrooms and properly trained teachers will surely make the environment meaningful.

The overall well-being of the child is as necessary as a holistic approach in education. If a child is healthy and happy then he/she will attend school regularly. Engagement and retention of learning will also be effective. Our Interventions play a crucial role, especially for children from underserved communities, as there are multiple gaps and challenges in their lives. Supporting children with remedial education, providing accessibility of education through standardised digital aids, provision of experiential learning, and training the teachers for effective teaching go a long way.

The Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) 2019-20 says that schools across India taught 265 million children, that is 4.2 million more than the previous year.

Is it enough to bring children back to school when there have been serious questions about the quality of education imparted at government schools? How is the Smile Foundation working on that front?

This would be improper to generalise the quality of education whether in non-government, government or private institutions. As far as organisations such as ours are concerned, we complement the overall efforts.

India is home to one of the largest school education systems in the world with more than 1.5 million schools. Almost two-thirds of them are government-run. Between 2012 and 2020, the pupil-teacher ratio has gone up by 7.5 percentage points. The gender parity index has also been improving.

When we are invited to work with select government schools, we again play the role of a catalyst in furthering its holistic mission. The focus is on making the environment for the student conducive and the teaching-learning effective.

Smile foundation has a 4-pronged approach focusing on children, teachers, infrastructure, and making the community have a sense of ownership. This definitely improves the teaching-learning in the classroom, makes children curious learners with experiential learning, and the interventions related to nutrition, health etc. take care of the well-being of children which promotes the regularity of the children. This involves working towards a child-centric approach, teacher-centric approach, enabling a learning environment, and community connect.

What is the most effective way to create awareness about the importance of education among underprivileged kids, especially when the parents’ income is insufficient to support the family?

We connect with children and families through community engagement activities to make them aware of the importance of education. The community engagement activities include focused group discussions, street plays, awareness campaigns, and also orientation of the stakeholders and influencers at the local level.

We also do one to one connect with parents and sensitise them on the need for education for the progress of the family. Emphasis is also given on ‘Girl Child Education’ to let their daughters go to school. Creating Mothers’/ Parent Teachers’ association, School Management Committees, other such important community stakeholders and raising awareness on the importance of education help the mission a great deal too.

We make the communities aware not only of the importance of education but also its availability and accessibility. It is important to make the community aware of different government schemes to provide free and quality education, free-ships and scholarships available for different categories, etc. and also handhold them in availing the same.

This assures the parents that education is important and it can be availed easily without creating any unwanted burden in their life.

What kind of challenges do organisations find in implementing interventions in a large and diverse country like India?

The major challenges in implementing grassroots development interventions in large and diverse India are in the form of geography, language and culture. At Smile Foundation we also partner with grassroots, Community Based Organisations (CBO) and handhold them to implement development projects. Right from the programme implementation plan to executing on-ground activities, the CBO partners are trained to work under our supervision and support. With the empowered CBO partners, this ensures the sustainability of the quality interventions even when the project period is over. Moreover, such organisations possess a wealth of experience with respect to a specific community or locality. Effective community-connect and trust are crucial in making such projects effective.

While designing the project, regional specifics and local dynamics are factored in, which include local language, locally available nutritional ingredients, available service providers for infrastructure upgradation, teacher training in the locally spoken language, etc.

Source :

Privacy Policy - Smile Foundation

Information Gathering

1. Smile Foundation collects information from the users in a number of ways, for example when the user:

  • Makes a donation
  • Signs up for a campaign
  • Signs up to stay updated

2. While forwarding a donation for Smile Foundation the well-wishers have to submit some personal information as it would help us ensuring genuine contributions:

  • Your name
  • Your email and mailing address
  • Your telephone number
  • Your payment processing details
  • Any other data as required

3. Smile Foundation does not collect or record the user’s personal information unless he/she chooses to provide it.

Use of Personal Information

1. General browsing of Smile Foundation website is anonymous and it does not register the user’spersonal information except the time, date and place of visits and the name of internet service provider. This data is used only for statistics and diagnosis.

2. By signing up for various services offered by Smile Foundation, the user explicitly authorizes us to collect information based on the user’s usage. The information is used to help provide a better experience to the user and is used as per the user’s specified instructions.

3. Smile Foundation keeps the user information strictly confidential and this information is secured safely. All relevant information collected through Smile Foundation website is handled and used by internal and/or authorized officials only. It is nevershared with any external agencies or third party individuals.

4. Smile Foundation uses the information givento it in the following ways:

  • To keep an accurate record of all the donations received
  • To update users about its happenings and developments through bulletins and newsletters, with an option of not to subscribe for the same
  • To make sure the user is receiving the most appropriate and relevant information
  • To find out more about the people who are visiting the Smile Foundationwebsite, donating, or joining its campaigns

5. Usually, Smile Foundation does not store user data. In case of specific sign-ups, the data is stored as per user request. The user can opt to delete all the information he/she has provided by simply requesting such by mail. All information, without exception, will be deleted in two working days.

Privacy of e-mail lists

Individuals who join Smile Foundation’s mailing lists via its website or through its campaigning engagements are added to its email database. Smile Foundation does not sell, rent, loan, trade, or lease the addresses on our lists to anyone.

Cookie Policy

1. Cookies are pieces of electronic information which will be sent by Smile Foundation when a user visitsthe website. These will be placed in the hard disk of the user’s computer and enable Smile Foundation to recognise the user when he/she visits the website again.

2. The user can configure his/her browser so that it responds to cookies the way he/she deems fit. For example, you make want to accept all cookies, reject them all or get notified when a cookie is sent. The users may check their browser’s settings to modify cookie behaviour as per individual behaviour.

3. If a user disables the use of cookies on the web browser, or removes or rejects specific cookies from Smile Foundation’swebsite or linked sites then he/she may not be able to use the website as it is intended.

Payment Gateway

1. SmileFoundation uses well-recognised and proven technology for payments. Payment information is transferred by the use of an SSL connection which offers the highest degree of security that the donor’s browser is able to support.

2. Several layers of built-in security, including an advanced firewall system, encryption of credit card numbers, and use of passwords, protect the collected information.

External Web Services

1. Smile Foundation uses a number of external web services on its site to display content within its web pages. For example, to display video it uses YouTube. As with the social media buttons, Smile Foundation cannot prevent these sites, or external domains, from collecting information on the user’s consumption of the content embedded on its site.

2. The Smile Foundation website contains links to other websites for the benefit of its visitors. This Privacy Policy does not apply to such other websites.

3. Smile Foundation is not expressly or impliedly responsible for, or liable to any loss or damage caused to a user by the collection, use and retention of Personal Information by such website in any manner whatsoever. It is important that the users review the privacy policies of all websites they visit before disclosing any information to such websites.

Changes to Privacy Policy

1. As and when the need arises, Smile Foundation may alter its privacy policy in accordance with the latest technology and trends. It will provide you with timely notice of these changes. The users may reach out to Smile Foundation if they have any queries about any changes made to its practices.

2. If you have any questions at all about Smile Foundation’s privacy policy, please write to us at: [email protected]

Refund and Cancellation Policy

Welcome to this web-site of SMILE FOUNDATION. We make public our policy on refund and cancellation of donations received for the social cause on payment gateway as under:-

  • No refund/cancellation for the donated amount by any donor will not be entertained, the online donations through the online payment gateway.
  • No cash or refund of money will be allowed.
  • If any in-kind support received by the donor from any where the material will be reached to the poorest of the poorer communities.
  • Once received the donation for a cause will not be refunded to the donor. No cancellation to be made. The donation will be used for the community development, children education or women’s empowerment.
Terms and Conditions

Use of this site is provided by SMILE FOUNDATION subject to the following Terms and Conditions:

SMILE FOUNDATION reserves the rights to change these terms and conditions at any time by posting changes online. Your continued use of this site after changes are posted constitutes your acceptance of this agreement as modified. You agree to use this site only for lawful purposes, and in a manner which does not infringe the rights, or restrict, or inhibit the use and enjoyment of the site by any third party.

This site and the information, names, images, pictures, logos regarding or relating to SMILE FOUNDATION are provided “as is” without any representation or endorsement made and without warranty of any kind whether express or implied. In no event will SMILE FOUNDATION be liable for any damages including, without limitation, indirect or consequential damages, or any damages whatsoever arising from the use or in connection with such use or loss of use of the site, whether in contract or in negligence.

SMILE FOUNDATION does not warrant that the functions contained in the material contained in this site will be uninterrupted or error free, that defects will be corrected, or that this site or the server that makes it available are free of viruses or bugs or represents the full functionality, accuracy and reliability of the materials.

Copyright restrictions:

Commercial use or publication of all or any item displayed is strictly prohibited without prior authorization from SMILE FOUNDATION. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring any license by SMILE FOUNDATION to use any item displayed.

Documents may be copied for personal use only on the condition that copyright and source indications are also copied, no modifications are made and the document is copied entirely. However, some documents and photos have been published on this site with the permission of the relevant copyright owners (who are not SMILE FOUNDATION). All rights are reserved on these documents and permission to copy them must be requested from the copyright owners (the sources are indicated within these documents/photographs).

SMILE FOUNDATION takes no responsibility for the content of external Internet sites. Other websites that we link to are owned and operated by third parties and SMILE FOUNDATION has no control over them. The fact that we include links to other websites does not mean that SMILE FOUNDATION approves of or endorses any other third party website or the content of that website. We accept no liability for any statements, information, products or services that are published on or are accessible through any websites owned or operated by third parties.

Any communication or material that you transmit to, or post on, any public area of the site including any data, questions, comments, suggestions, or the like, is, and will be treated as, non-confidential and nonproprietary information. If there is any conflict between these terms and conditions and rules and/or specific terms of use appearing on this site relating to specific material then the latter shall prevail.

These terms and conditions shall be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of India.

If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, the use of this site must be terminated immediately. SMILE FOUNDATION for Social Welfare Service is a registered at

161 B/4, 3rd Floor, Gulmohar House
Yusuf Sarai Community Centre
New Delhi-110049
Phone : +91-11-43123700

Supplementing & In Alignment with Government Initiatives


Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
National Education Policy
Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao
Digital India


Skill India
Enhancing Formal Skilling


National Rural Health Mission
Universal Health Coverage
National Digital Health Mission
Promotion of Govt. Health Schemes


Anaemia Mukt Bharat
Poshan Abhiyan
Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan
Anganwadi Strengthening