A perceived gap is what usually leads entrepreneurs, both social and corporate, to set up their own ventures. The story is no different for Initiatives in Development and Education for All or IDEA Foundation.

Back in 1996, while Dr. Usha Pillai was pursuing her PhD on “Reasons and Interventions taken by NGOs and Government for addressing the issue of school drop outs,” from the University of Pune, she came across a handful of dissatisfying scenarios about education in government schools.

Through surveys and direct observation during research for her PhD, she learnt that limited interaction of teachers with childrens’ parents was hampering the performance of children. No feedback was being given to parents about their child’s performance at school. Parents were also not keen on the performance of their children. This non-communication, parental attitude and peer group influence play a major role in children’s lack of interest in school, thus leading to dropouts. She says, “The survey revealed a shocking rise in the number of underprivileged students dropping out from schools!” IDEA Foundation was thus set up in 2002 to address these gaps.

The organization operates on its core principle, which is that “every child is different and so is their reason to drop out from school.” Their team thus invests paramount efforts to understand the different requirements of underprivileged children and accordingly motivates them to complete their education. Their efforts range from of activity oriented study and play-and- learn centers for the children, to parent-teacher management committees and counseling services for parents along with financial support to parents through sponsorship program.

IDEA’s mission is to create “equal opportunities to underprivileged sections of society for their all round development.” So wherever obstacles occur in this process, IDEA has over the years, introduced interventions to address the same.

In fact, during her PHD research, Dr. Usha Pillai had also observed that teachers were reluctant to give honest feedback about classroom attendance, teaching and childrens’ performance to higher authorities. She says, “They were subdued.” So the school was running well on paper, as the Government wanted it to, but was not addressing the needs of the children. This observation lead her to focus on teachers’ trainings through IDEA as well. Training is given so that teachers can mold the children better.

As expected, the results have paid off. Over the years, this has helped infuse confidence in the teachers. They have started coming up with suggestions of their own – things that would help their own students benefit.

Dr. Pillai recalls the baseline survey she and her team had conducted back in 2009. That survey took them to the Khanvasti slums. Back then, it was quite cut off from the main city. The roads weren’t approachable and the only way to reach was on one’s own two feet! The nearest aanaganwadi was thus set up 2kms away, making the daily commute for children quite a long one! The commute made finding teachers to work here a challenge too. So IDEA trained ladies and youth from the same community and appointing them as teachers at the aanganwadi that they set up here!

By overcoming challenges like these, Usha has taken IDEA to 2,500 children across several slums in and around Pune. Apart from working in 10 slums in the city, the organization also works in 10 villages and 4 slums in Bhor Taluka, in Pune district.

If you look at these numbers from another angle – by keeping 2,500 children in school, they have helped in curbing the social evil of child labour to quite an extent!

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