Between heading a legal firm in Mumbai and being a board member of several corporates, Nimish Pandya is also the all-India president of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, founded by the revered saint Sathya Sai Baba that is doing much for the educational advancement of children in rural India. We talk to the 64-year-old about two initiatives Vidya Vahini and Vidya Jyothi, the team, their work and the results. Excerpts:
Tell us about Vidya Vahini and Vidya Jyothi.
The Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini (SSSVV) programme drives home the message to school managements that it is essential to expand the domains of influence from the classroom to the corridor, campus and community to give children a 360 degree experience of transformative schooling experience. It was started in July 2010, when Sri Sathya Sai Baba instructed the Trust to make a presentation to Ratan Tata regarding a value-based integral education outreach programme followed by another presentation to TCS CEO Chandrasekaran. TCS has been providing consultancy and technology development support since August 2010.
The Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Jyothi (SSSVJ) programme is time-bound. The motto is: Inspiring Children by Empowering Schools. This programme was launched on April 24, 2016. SSSVJ energises the teachers, parents, and villagers, empowers the students and teaching community, and equips the school with basic infrastructure.
Tell us about the team.
There are about 6500 registered volunteers for SSSVV who participate in various capacities. Many create and curate content for rural teachers. Others certify themselves and deliver training modules to the schools created by experts in pedagogy. Many volunteers call their buddy teachers to help them improve their English. The school’s relationship coordinators ensure that the computers are virus-free and have the latest content, and so on.
Each school adopted under SSSVJ involves a team of 10-25 volunteers depending upon the number of students. Each team comprises of youth, Mahilas, Bal Vikas gurus, doctors, paramedical, engineers, motivational speakers, counsellors, educators, etc.
What is the reach of Vidya Vahini and Vidya Jyothi now?
The programme is currently being implemented in 145 schools across 20 states. It will be expanded to 950 schools by 2020. Expansion will be both organic as well as through partnerships with like-minded institutions, corporates and other organisations.
As of now, the SSSVJ programme has adopted 550 schools across India. Our target is to reach at least 900 schools in the first phase by the end of the current academic year.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs?
There is a dire need to understand the grass root realities of rural schools in India. Customise solutions for these problems. Keep the true benefits to future citizens of India as the fulcrum around which your initiatives revolve.