-Autar Nehru (Delhi)
Corporate captain turned philanthropist Vineet Nayar is founder-chairman of the Noida-based Sampark Foundation (estb.2005), an NGO working towards improving learning outcomes in government primary schools in eight states across the country. Over the past 18 years since it was registered, the foundation has positively impacted 10.49 million children and trained 672,000 teachers in 1.23 lakh government schools.
The foundation works in eight states — Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra — without levying any charge to the states or pupils. Currently, the foundation has 800 field staff who monitor and facilitate its learning improvement programme in 123,500 schools in eight states.
Newspeg. In July, Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, inaugurated the Sampark Smartshala-Smart Block programme, under which 58 government schools in Gorakhpur and 68 in Chargawan districts were equipped with LED TVs and maths and English learning kits.
History. An alumnus of GB Pant University of Agriculture & Technology and XLRI Jamshedpur, Nayar signed up with HCL Technologies in the company’s infancy in 1985, steadily rose up the ranks and was appointed CEO in 2007. During his six-year term HCL’s sales revenue rose from Rs.16,600 crore in 2007-08 to Rs.41,500 crore and the company’s market cap from $0.7 billion (Rs.5,250 crore) in 2005 to $4.7 billion in 2013.
In 2005, at the instance of his school teacher-mother Janak Nayar (1936-2017), Vineet and his wife Anupama registered the Sampark Foundation with the objective of improving education standards in government schools. Until 2013, the foundation funded approved projects of NGOs. But, after a thorough impact study indicated marginal impact, the foundation resolved to adopt a more hands-on approach using technology to make teacher-pupil interaction more engaging and enjoyable, a strategy devised by Anupama, also an alumna of GB Pant University of Agriculture & Technology and a qualified special educator.
Subsequently in 2015, the foundation designed its Sampark Smart ShalaTM (SSS), a unique low-cost programme to improve children’s learning outcomes. The SSS kit comprises 16 components including a rechargeable audio device — a voice mascot named Sampark Didi — which delivers 112 carefully researched lessons. The foundation’s objective is to scale the programme to reduce the cost to $1 per child per year. In 2022 the foundation rolled out Sampark TV in 25,000 government schools. The duo is committed to invest $100 million (Rs.820 crore) in the foundation.
Direct talk. “To implement SSS effectively, we trained teachers in the SSS app Sampark TV, and activity-based pedagogy. Our tag line is sahi kram, sahi dang (right sequence, right methodology) which translates into equipping teachers with skills to improve the learning outcomes of pupils. Moreover, we have deployed TV screens in classrooms to empower teachers to deliver engaging and immersive lessons,” says Nayar, who adds that there’s been a dramatic decrease in dropout rates in targeted government schools after implementation of the Sampark programme.
Future plans. Enthused by the success of Sampark TV in public schools, the duo plans to extend it to select budget private schools. “Initially we will deploy our Sampark TV programmes in 15,000 budget private schools and 50,000 government schools free-of-charge. If India is to become a $5 trillion economy by 2025, education has to move centrestage in the national political discourse, and we need to invest a lot more in the education of our children and youth,” says Nayar.
Words of wisdom indeed.