The Community Outreach Imperative

EducationWorld December 2021 | Magazine Spotlight Feature

Anjali Sharma, Headmistress, Gitanjali Devashray, Hyderabad

“ None of us is safe till everyone is safe.” This became a war cry during the pandemic. But long before Covid struck, the basic truth of individual interests linked to the larger well-being of the community has remained firmly ingrained as an essential ingredient in nurturing school children. This has reflected in the various community outreach programmes — workshops, awareness drives, visits to old age homes — that several educational institutions have designed over time. The basic aim being not just to sensitise children to larger societal needs but also instill a deeper sense of empathy.

During the pandemic months, many schools were not able to offer online classes. In an effort to address learning gaps, students from Gitanjali Devashray School collected books for rural libraries. Gitanjali Senior School reached out to government school students for one-on-one teaching sessions and helped them with their studies and extra-curricular activities using mobile phones.

Taking informed, decisive actions that impact our communities need to become a habit for students, who are fast becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Also, it is not just about the pandemic or addressing woes related to it. Gitanjali Devshala School built on its engagement with special needs children and involved 20 special needs schools to participate in the school flag hoisting function aimed to sensitise and create awareness in the community. In fact, this activity helped the school gain entry into the Limca Book of Records. 

Then came the activity of reaching out to underprivileged children and extending aid to those hit by natural calamities. Reading about the problems is far different from insights gained when interacting and learning about them from the victims themselves. To spread some Christmas cheer, children from Gitanjali Devashray stocked up on stationery supplies for the children and invited them to the school campus for one-onone interactions and festivities. The sense of engaging with the community not only got deeper but instilled a sense of responsibility and gratitude in children.

At a time when climate change and issues of sustainability are also engaging the mind space, extending a helping hand in finding solutions instills a more enduring bond with the cause than merely being aware of the problem. For example, grade XII students of Gitanjali School in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature took to cleaning the Ameenpur Lake.

To sum up, the three main objectives of any well-meaning community outreach programme must be about:

1. Creating awareness on larger societal impact issues.

2. Promoting fruitful civic engagement and helping communities function better.

3. Sensitise children to issues concerning the society and through their involvement reinforce the values of sharing, caring, empathy and building a solution-seeking mindset.

Each school should therefore encourage community outreach programmes that help students take their learning, build on it and then return. After all, as Winston Churchill, once said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” And to this effect, the more we develop such values, the brighter we paint the future for our children.

(Anjali Sharma is currently the Headmistress at Gitanjali Devashray and has been with the Gitanjali Group for over 15 years in various roles. She is an avid reader, learner and keen listener who enjoys engaging with young minds.)

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