Experiments of volunteers coming out to help in imparting education have been immensely beneficial in strengthening school infra
National Education Policy 2020 recommends enhancing learning outcomes of students by involving community and volunteer efforts for one-on-one tutoring, holding extra help classes, teaching support and guidance. These objectives recommended by the NEP were conceived through the program called ‘Vidyanjali’- a school volunteer initiative wherein volunteering was proposed to be done in non-monetary form directly to the schools through a tech-based common platform.
The initiative is aimed at strengthening school infrastructure and enhancing the quality of education by seeking community support in different domains of school education. The volunteers could be local individuals, civil societies or corporates, people from the Indian diaspora and NRIs. Vidyanjali seeks community involvement in the efficient functioning of the schools in the neighbourhood, especially government and government aided schools.
Though volunteering for a social cause has been an integral part of Indian culture, the uniqueness of the Vidyanjali initiative is that it provides a tech-enabled smooth platform which connects the schools with the volunteers located in any part of the country. Very often, a common citizen is left wondering how to volunteer for a social cause and schools on the other hand look out for assistance to meet the diverse yet small needs of the school which does not get covered in through their annual budget allocations.
Many a time, shortage of teachers leaves students deprived of education. Vidyanjali provides an opportunity to address these gaps. Launched in September 2021, with active volunteers participation, the programme is gradually gaining traction among citizens. It has proven its strength by successfully managing to attract a good number of volunteers and onboarded schools on the portal. As on date, there are over 3.87 lakh government and government-aided schools on board and over 102683 volunteers have registered on the Vidyanjali portal. The volunteers under Vidyanjali have shown great deal of enthusiasm by contributing to the schools in terms of assets as well as services. For instance, there are cases where volunteers have donated about 52122 ceiling fans/water purifiers/drinking water facility and other services to schools in Assam.
Similarly, in Delhi we have volunteers providing subject assistance, mentoring, teaching art & craft and music to the students. Moreover, school girls are getting self-defense training, while volunteers are providing assistance in developing basic civil infrastructure and other classroom needs, including ICT-based learning material and devices such as tablets, mobile phone, LCD, stationary, books, laptop, and flip white board, etc., to the schools across the country.
Almost 9.27 lakh children have benefitted from this volunteering programme. The next step is to rope in bulk contributions from corporations, civil societies to schools across the State to strengthen them. The success of the programme rests on the effort put in by the states/UTs in getting the program on board through regular training sessions rendered to district/block level functionaries, as well as heads of schools to onboard the schools on the portal and place their request. The volunteers can contribute only if the schools are registered on the portal and place their request.
Volunteers could even be common citizens like us. We all have the urge to contribute back to the schools that we passed out from. People having expertise in sports can impart sports training to the children, doctors can organize medical camps and conduct health/mental wellbeing lectures/workshops.
Companies/groups/organizations can assist schools in building additional classrooms/toilets for girls/ ramps for children with special needs/ICT labs/Smart classroom /residentials hostels for students/electricity/water and internet connections etc. As alumni, self-employed or salaried professionals all of us can support our alma-mater in various ways. The exhaustive list on which volunteers can contribute is available on the Vidyanjali portal.
Beneficially, the programme does not minimize the responsibilities of the Government rather it supplements/complements and strengthens the efforts of the Governments taken for the betterment of the whole education continuum in the country. The people volunteering under Vidyanjali do it selflessly. They cannot claim their services as full-time experience, while the schools cannot treat them as full-time teachers/staff of the school. The programme is fully based on the true spirit of volunteerism and with a very clear intention to tap the resources available with the community for catalyzing the needs of schools and volunteers connected through extensive use of technology and community outreach programs on a single platform.
(A Srija is an Economic Adviser to and Abdul Momin is Consultant in the Ministry of Education)