Learnings from the previous visit have given us the motivation to keep the students on the right track. TechO2 identified certain areas for the upliftment of the students, they are Aptitude, Communication and Leadership. With these targeted areas, Our team consisting of Dr. Malathi Madhav Jakka a renowned academician, Ramesh KBC , Seshasree, Arun kumar, Ranjani Thakur and John Emmanuel visited ZPHS on the 10th of August 2016.
The session started with an inaugural speech by the MEO of the School, Mr.Ramulu. TechO2’s Program Director Mr.Ramesh KBC took over and addressed the teachers and students about the vision of TechO2 CEO Mr. Sreeni Jakka and reiterated the purpose of #DiscoverI mission; That it is intended to be Impactful, Sustainable, Repeatable and Inspiring others into action.
Dr. Malathi Madhav Jakka provided critical inputs on Learning Techniques. The practicality of the techniques were put into action and the collective message was passed thatWe hear… we forget
Now that learning techniques are in place, next come some other important aspects i.e. Skill Development. The importance of Skill Development is quite evident by the actions of the Honorable Prime Minister of the Country, Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, who started the SKill India Mission in 2015. This was taken up by Ramesh KBC and Arun and a road map was presented to the students on Skill development in the areas of Communication, Aptitude and Leadership in collaboration with the school staff.
Next came the importance of Communication. The marketing concept of 7Cs was incorporated and presented in a simplified manner to the students. The importance of Leadership was explained along with it’s applicability in keeping people together and achieving goals.
In order to engage the students in a different tandem; singing, dancing and some fun sessions were conducted by Seshasree, Arun and Ranjani. As part of the support activities, notebooks and pens were distributed to all the students in the school.
For the improvement of the School Management, a separate workshop was conducted for the teachers. Dr. Malathi Madhav Jakka and Ramesh KBC took a lead on this and provided inputs on teaching techniques, progress tracking, effective computer lab utilization and the importance of audio visual aids. Focus areas were identified and classified into
Ramesh KBC took up environmental issues and as part of the optimum utilization of resources, advised the teachers and students to divide their playground into five parts and grow various plants which would enrich their knowledge in botany and environmental sciences.
At TechO2, we put together a darn good team; we do our best to serve each of our clients.
We work hard, deliver well and play hard. We earn our paychecks, we lead a good life style, we invest in learning, we refine, and we like to code. We do this day in, day out and every day. Of course, we are good at what we do, and we love what we do. But we often wonder if there is anything else to this cycle of Eat, Sleep, Code, Repeat!
During late 2015, we found our answer to this question. We as a company wanted to give back to the community that we are part of. In our research over a period of 7 months, we considered several initiatives and conclude that we want to do something that meets the four basic criteria of:
There are several causes in the community that need attention; but we concluded that we are not the saviors of the world and we need to be realistic with the challenges we undertake. Some of these impediments and challenges stem from deep-rooted and intertwined systemic issues that tiny efforts will not have meaningful impact. We want to commit to a cause where our efforts can be sustainable year after year. We like this process to be repeatable in a different setting either by us or someone else; in this case we don't mind if others copy us. We like our efforts to pay off and show positive results so that other companies like us can be inspired and do their part (if they choose to) with their communities.
#DiscoverI is our small attempt to give back to the community. It's a program designed to create awareness and provide mentorship for underprivileged students in India in the areas of education and career advice. So, we did our homework, found a target school from a village, worked with a local activist, and started our adventure. 20 volunteers from TechO2 (and some of their enthusiastic children) hopped on a bus in hot Indian summer on Saturday April 9, 2016 and drove down 4 hours to a remote village called Thirumalagiri.
Thirumalagiri is a small remote village in Nalgonda district of Telangana state in India. The population is around 14,000 and most people depend on agriculture. Wet paddy is the major crop; other crops include groundnut, red chillies, cotton, green gram, castor and other vegetables and pulses.
ZP High School is a government run school that's an Upper Primary with Secondary and Higher Secondary School. Students from 20+ nearby villages come to this school for grades ranging from 6th to 10th. The school is formed in 1956 and most of the students come from the families of farm laborers. Most students' families live the ‘paycheck to paycheck' situation on a daily basis as they depend on daily wages. The different farming events during the crop season bring challenges to students and school system, as parents tend to pull their children into farm labor. Most parents are very illiterate and children are under-nourished.
Thanks to our local activist and Arun Gaddam (our Marketing Analyst) who went door to door in hot sun to mobilize the parents for the workshop, there was a gathering of 250+ students, parents and teachers when we arrived.
We designed the event to be very interactive in a workshop fashion. We didn't want this to be a boring lecture; we wanted this to be a dialogue between the students, parents, teachers and TechO2. The idea was to involve the students, understand their aspirations, impediments, start a dialogue and offer guidance and an auxiliary support system for them to succeed in their academic ambitions. The goal was to collect data and insights that we can measure over a period of time; and also share with NGOs that focus on underprivileged students in India.
We were just skeptical of whether we can pull off an interactive session with the crowd given the environment and the conditions the students are used to! We had several goodies ready in the form of water bottles, T-shirts, bookmarks, etc. to entice the students to engage.
Once the workshop started, the interaction started pouring in. We started asking them what they want to be when they grow up. These kids might be poor in their financial status; but they are very rich in their ambitions and the reasons for what they want to do with their aspired career. They just need help in getting there! Here is a nice little snippet of the mind map we prepared during the workshop as the ambitions started coming out.
It's not just the typical doctor and engineer paths, one could clearly see the social responsibility brewing in their career choices at such an young age.
It was when discussing their challenges in going to school and their fears of impediments to succeed, things got very emotional. It was an eye-opener and heart wrenching for people that live in the Facebook, Instagram age to hear a kid share that there are days he can't finish his homework because he can't afford a pen that costs Rs.2 (roughly $0.03).
The clarity these kids have is something that's rarely found even in mature adults. They have dreams, they suffer through serious challenges every day, and yet they are strong and passionate. The pain in their thoughts and words is overwhelming. Some of us were choking with tears listening to these kids and their narration of their challenges.
The students were so enthusiastic to partake in the workshop and share their thoughts:
"I want to work hard to be a doctor and provide service to my people. Sometimes I cannot come to school because my parents don't buy us books or pens; instead they insist us to go for work as daily labor. They see no future with education. But despite many challenges I come to school."
"Many underprivileged kids are unable to study because they can't afford. Specially, girls are not encouraged because they would later earn for their father-in-law's family and not for them. I feel sad when my parents discourage me to stay back home, when asked for pen or book. I'm very regular to school and sometimes have to walk for 2kms, whenever I don't have money for public transport."
"We are a family of 8 kids (5 girls and 3 boys); my parents are working hard to get us educated. My goal is to become a teacher. I would request you to help many more kids like us."
"My dad is no more, but my mom is working hard for me to study and I want to be a doctor."
"I want to be a police. I'm one among many poor families at village. My parents are working hard and motivating me to study. I want to give back a decent lifestyle to my parents, once I become parents."
"I'm studying in 7th class. I belong to a very poor family, during rainy season, water pours into my home. It's really difficult to live and sleep. My dad wants us to work with him as we are a family of 4 and we can earn 800inr/day together. He thinks there is no future for us at government school and neither can he afford private education. There are incidents when my dad couldn't afford to buy us a school uniform, despite working for 3 days. This led him to discourage us to not to go to school. My parents don't see any future although they've agreed for me to study.
However, I want to work hard and get good job. I tell my dad, education will give me a better future, which our daily jobs would not and I don't want to live lifelong working as a day labor. This year I'm expecting 1st rank in my class."
The students were so happy to be part of this program as they said no one ever cared to ask them what they want to become, let alone provide direction. Noting their passion for breaking the cycle and make a mark, Sreeni Jakka - our CEO provided them inspiration stating that "It's YOU that's going to make you happen… be passionate and work hard, and things will fall in place".
Satish Peta, Systems Engineer and Seshasree Parnam, Human Resource Manager at TechO2 walked them through different career choices once they finish high school. It was interesting that it was the first time parents came to know the aspirations of their children! Ramesh KBC, Program Director at TechO2 engaged the parents on the need for supporting their children in education and their ambitions.
The students felt really cared for as they had an opportunity to speak their mind. Parents seemed to be motivated that there is support available in the community and corporate world to guide their students. To our surprise, the teachers were very inspired and volunteered to work with us to enhance their curriculum for the students. Teachers reflected that this is a small change that can create waves in the local community in terms of adherence to attending school, academic excellence and career selection. The school staff mentioned that though they knew about the challenges of their students, it was an effective reminder for them on what non-academic strengths they should inculcate for these students.
With the stupendous success of this workshop and the insights from grassroots level, it's apparent that we are on the right track. TechO2 has come up with the following plan of action to continue the #DiscoverI program:
We like to thank the below individuals for making the TechO2's #DiscoverI first event overwhelmingly successful.
Your enthusiasm and support reinforces our commitment to #DiscoverI program.
As we left Thirumalagiri heavy hearted, we as a company and each individual in the team were reassured that we would be back to this place. The gratitude, hope and desire to succeed in these kids' eyes are haunting; and we would love to help. The collective feeling from each one of our volunteers was, "this was one of the most fulfilling days of our lives!"
We'll provide updates to the #DiscoverI program as they unfold in the coming months and years.