In February 2004, I had the opportunity to participate in KHUSHII’s first Village Adoption Project in Neemrana, Rajasthan, called Project PARIVARTAN. For me, it all started with a walk-through one of the villages, where I was able to observe the life of the villagers, communicate with them, and learn of their needs. I distinctly remember “Meena” a young mother aged around 21 years, who was holding her baby while sitting on a “charpoy”. When I approached her and started interacting, I learned that the child was born with the help of a traditional birth attendant at home, but sadly, as per their rituals, the child was was not fed “colostrum” – the vital “first-milk” that is essential to help develop a baby’s immunity. It is then I realized just how vital KHUSHII’s involvement in this village would be and I threw myself into the work.
Project Parivartan had begun.
Our mission was to empower the villagers, to help them to make the most of their own potential within their environment, and to discourage them from migrating to the “big city” where they were often lured into petty crime to make ends meet. KHUSHII’s model, therefore, followed a life-cycle approach with intervention from infancy to adulthood and covered a gamut of activities including environmental protection, awareness generation, education, healthcare, vocational training, and job placements.
KHUSHII’s community included 97 villages, 33 Gram panchayats, and a 12-point personal intervention program where every household was visited every day. It was a unique and successful way of motivating each family towards empowerment. Our infrastructure support to the community included a well-equipped primary health center and a modern vocational training institute. KHUSHII realized that many children were not interested in their studies because they were lagging behind and had no tutors or scholastic support outside of their schools. Their parents were unavailable, uninterested, or uneducated and couldn’t help them. Furthermore, the schools provided a narrow window into the potentially rich world of education. This led KHUSHII to start a holistic remedial education program for young children and we called this program “Shikshaantra”. It was designed to assist children with their education, life skills, and emotional development, by creating a more evolved and nurturing environment than was currently available to them. KHUSHII achieved this by not only providing scholastic support but also by concentrating on areas like hygiene, sanitation, personal grooming, personality development, counseling, medical aid, mid-day meals, recreation, and value-based education.
We conducted a recce in several states and met government teachers and headmaster to learn from them better understand their challenges. They needed more resources, more teachers, infrastructure improvements, and better programs. KHUSHII realized that we could create the highest return on our donor’s capital, not by building new schools and raising parallel infrastructure but by adopting and supporting government schools, so as to bring sustainability and systemic changes. We met with government representatives at the state and local levels and they enthusiastically supported our program and always have ever since.
Our new program, Shikshantraa Plus was born. Through this program, we adopt government schools and transform their infrastructure, build teacher capacity, set up STEM labs, provide remedial education and value-based education to the students, interact regularly with the parents and community to foster a sense of importance as to the value of education for boys and girls alike and help ensure support for the children at home. Our teachers often go above and beyond. For example, they’ve started WhatsApp groups with the older students so that in the evening hours, the students can ask questions about homework – questions that their parents can’t answer. When KHUSHII adopts a school, children tend to see a two-fold improvement in test scores and schools see a 20% improvement in attendance and 30% improvement in parental engagement.
Today KHUSHII is supporting 27 government schools across 10 states nationwide.
KHUSHII’s program was growing steadily when COVID-19 caused schools to shut down almost overnight in 2020. KHUSHII’s immediate aim was to ensure that a temporary interruption in schooling did not become a perpetual loss of learning. KHUSHII immediately adapted its strategies towards providing unhindered education to its student beneficiaries through effective and inclusive remote learning systems. We started with awareness calls to students and parents. Parents were surveyed periodically and our interventions were regularly updated based on the information we gathered. We realized that counseling would be just as important as scholastic support and strengthened our counseling programs by collaborating with experts and adapted our programs for digital intervention. We created teaching plans that were made available online, over WhatsApp, and simple text messages so as to be accessible to families with varying levels of technology.
Capacity-building sessions were conducted for teachers, to equip them with knowledge and skills to meet the remote teaching challenges. Mobilizers braved the COVID-19 scare and physically reached out to the students and parents needing support. Self-instructional, age-appropriate printed worksheets were provided to our students who have little to no access to digital learning platforms, so as to ensure that our response to education is inclusive.
Once it was safe to do so, KHUSHII started COVID-safe community-based learning centres in Delhi and Bengaluru, for students who were not able to attend online classes. We called this program ADAPT IMPACT and through it, we provide a combination of scholastic and counseling support to our attending children. We believe that in the year to come, these centres will continue to play a valuable role in making up for the COVID-created learning loss for our children.
The pandemic has provided an opportunity to re-imagine and re-build education systems and ensure that all students are able to access education anywhere and at any time. For example, we collaborated with Convegenius, a Michael and Susan Dell Foundation backed technology solution that can assess a student’s scholastic progress through WhatsApp. KHUSHII has rolled out a pilot-program to 4,000 beneficiaries and if successful will seek to integrate such technological solutions permanently as part of our programs.
Having already dealt with an extended lockdown last year, we were better prepared to navigate the unexpected second wave of COVID in April of this year. We reached out to families in need and provided them with urgent aid and home isolation kits and, with the permission of local government, we also launched a program to convert schools into COVID care centres. With schools closed, this program has provided vital assistance to families who live in small rooms in congested slums and have no place to isolate if they are infected.
To contribute to our campaign for COVID-19 relief, please give through our GiveIndia initiative here.
At the time of this writing, we’ve already launched summer programs for the children to make up for their learning loss of the last year. But, in spite of our significant efforts, we recognize that the learning loss for our students will be very real and we are already working on bridge programs for our students when they return to school. In the meantime, we continue to rely on our donors to support our efforts so we may continue to innovate and adopt more schools and help create a brighter future for our nation’s children.
Khushii was founded by Mr. Kapil Dev and he continues to lead it as Chairman Emeritus.
Khushii’s elected Honorary President is well known Investor and Corporate Leader, Mr. Rudra Dalmia.