Thursday, December 7, 2023

Turning dreams into reality & aspirations to rise above socio-economic divides

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This week for our special weekly column, The Pioneer brings to you about the WNS Cares Foundation, that focuses on bringing together its efforts to educate, empower, and enrich the less privileged, with its various initiatives.

Tejal Sinha

The term “underprivileged children” often brings up an image of emaciated children from far-off continents.One might feel pity for them but does anyone ever give it a proper thought. Poverty, after all, is an inevitable part of society and there’s nothing you can do about it.

No doubt, poverty is inevitable and even the wealthiest countries have underprivileged children. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to ease their plight. Remember that even the smallest drop of water can cause ripples in the ocean.

Today, The Pioneer brings to you WNS Cares Foundation (WCF), the CSR arm of WNS Global Services with a core philosophy rooted in the belief that every individual has the power to make a difference through education, which is represented in the WCF equation of I1= E3. They aim to offer underprivileged children and youth a better and more sustainable future by equipping them with education and real-life skills.

“We bring our vision of a better future to fruition through focused efforts to ‘Educate, Empower and Enrich’ less fortunate youth and children,” begins Shamini Murugesh, Chief Mentor, WNS Cares Foundation.

The organisation was set up with its mission to educate beyond academics, empower them to cross the bridge of socio-economic divide, and enrich them with real-life skills.

“I have always felt that each of us has the power within us, the power to create an equitable society. My endeavor has always been to lead and encourage people to develop this faculty. We see millions of children across the globe suffer due to a lack of basic necessities every year. Caught in the web of poverty, they survive in the most pitiable conditions.There can be several ways to influence their lives positively, and there would be differences of opinion over how best one can influence others’ lives positively.”

Every child must have access to quality education as it develops essential skills to earn a living and make informed decisions. Hence, they conducted a global survey with our employees, giving them various options. 72% of employees chose “Education” as a cause the support. “I firmly believe that education is the best path to success, regardless of economic status. When we started working with economically disadvantaged populations, we realized the limited scope of existing education systems and the need to supplement them to get effective outcomes. Children who are natural explorers and free thinkers are hampered by some of the existing rigid systems that tend to limit their thought processes. This is further compounded by the lack of parental guidance and the absence of an environment that encourages and supports questioning or critical-thinking habits.

Hence, tailor-made projects and programs were developed and adapted for our international locations. Our academic programs include computer literacy, remedial education, spoken English, and dictionary-based activities, while our non-academic programs cover sports, arts, and health. The WCF E-mentoring program, with our employee volunteers in countries like the U.S., mentors underprivileged students in India.”

They together recognise the transformative power of digital literacy and its role in empowering individuals and bridging social-economic divides. Their educational programs prioritize digital literacy and digital transformation as a key focus area, aligning with SDG 4: Quality Education. WCF aims to empower our beneficiaries for a better future by equipping underprivileged communities with the necessary skills and knowledge.

Going further, Shamini highlights upon a few of the activities that they work on, which include:

With initiatives like the computer-aided literacy program, they have managed to establish computer literacy centers in collaboration with organizations like Pratham Infotech Foundation. These centers provide students in Grades 1 to 10 with better access to computers and technology-related job skills. Additionally, they also operate independent computer literacy centers in Chennai, Visakhapatnam, and Bengaluru, where experienced local teachers play a crucial role in imparting digital literacy skills.

Then comes the digital learning centers, that they’ve established in schools located in low-income areas, provide access to digitized versions of the entire curriculum in English and local Indian languages. These centers empower teachers to enhance learning outcomes for approximately 88,776 students in Grades 1 to 10.

Another such initiative, MakeMyCareer (MMC)empowers economically challenged individuals for the job market. MMC recognizes the obstacles individuals from economically disadvantaged backgrounds face in accessing job opportunities. Through intensive training in Business Process Management and comprehensive soft skills development, MMC equips individuals with the necessary tools to overcome socio-economic barriers and seize employment prospects.

The self-defense program program for girls is a highly impactful initiative that equips young participants with essential skills to ensure personal safety. With a commitment to their well-being, the program has reached out to 6,885 girls, empowering them to become confident individuals.

The pandemic triggered the world’s largest migration to online learning, several critical gaps were highlighted in cyber safety awareness. Children were especially vulnerable to the risks that lurked in the internet’s dark underbelly. Creating a structured learning platform to raise cybersafety awareness among children and young people was the need of the hour.

And so, “We prepared to step up the plate to address this challenge. The CyberSmart portal plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of children in the digital world. The platform’s focus on cyber safety education and empowerment directly addresses the need for smarter measures to protect children online. By offering age-appropriate learning journeys and curriculum advisories, CyberSmart equips children with the knowledge and skills to navigate cyberspace safely.

Through strategic partnerships with the government and relevant organizations, WCF amplifies the reach and impact of CyberSmart, contributing to creating a safer digital environment for children worldwide. With its range of key features, CyberSmart offers an engaging and accessible platform for cybersafety education right from Age-appropriate Content, interactive quizzes, digital privacy, and much more.”

Another key initiative, WCF Digital Treasure, a web-based e-learning platform, offers a wealth of educational content. The platform equips lesser-privileged students with academic and real-life skills. The site has three sections and 1,050 videos: E-Tutorials, which deliver practice exercises and instructional videos; E-Class, which provides content that complements the school syllabus; and E-Library, which offers a wide range of reading material beyond academic subjects.

Together, these initiatives equip students with essential academic and real-life skills, foster a deeper understanding of concepts, nurture sustained interest in learning, and reduce school dropouts.

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