December 2019 | 434 words | 2-minute read
Decades before UNESCO proclaimed in 1967 that September 8 every year be celebrated as International Literacy Day to highlight the importance of literacy — as a matter of dignity and human rights — to individuals, communities and societies, our visionary Founder, Jamsetji Tata, emphasised on education both for the individual’s and society’s progress in an inclusive and sustainable manner.
Given his clear premium on education, Jamsetji established the eponymous JN Tata Endowment for the higher education of Indians; since its inception in 1892, the philanthropic trust has been aiding Indian students with loan scholarships for higher education. And even before this, the Tata family founded and supported the Bai Navajbai Tata Girls School in Navsari, Gujarat, which is more than 160 years old today and one of the earliest schools for girls in India.
The group's efforts in promoting education have never been more pertinent. India's education woes are extensive. While 99.2 per cent of students eligible for primary education are enrolled, the percentage of eligible students with access to secondary education is 80%, those with access to senior secondary education is a disappointing 56.2%, and only 24.5% have access to higher education. Additionally, India has a shortfall of approximately nine lakh teachers, including four lack primary school teachers.
A significant part of the Trusts’ effort is aimed at strengthening the government school system, the only option for the majority of India’s marginalised children. “We are striving for the overall development of children and their academic skills,” says Amrita Patwardhan, zonal head, north India, programme implementation.
Key literacy stakeholder
Jamsetji’s philosophy of constructive philanthropy became a tradition in the Tata group. Since setting up the first school, the Tata Trusts’ engagement with education has grown manifold. Today, it is a key stakeholder in literacy efforts in India. Their education portfolio supports 84 projects that impact a total of about 3.6 million students and teachers in 26 states and 145 districts of India.
Over time, the approach to and direction of the education programmes under the Tata Trusts (Trusts) canopy have evolved. In 2014, the Trusts aligned their activities to focus on backward regions and communities. In 2018, they revisited their education strategy to find ways to achieve greater scale and impact by promoting holistic, integrated approaches to literacy through advocacy, networking and partnership activities.
“We want to deepen our conversations with non-profits, convene like-minded entities around specific causes and create a strategy for convergence; this will help us achieve scale at the national level,” says Satyajit Salian, head, education, the Tata Trusts. “The Trusts want to play a vital role at the fulcrum of the sector.”