NIIT Foundation program is changing the lives of rural children and youth

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NIIT Foundation, a non-profit organization, is working with children and youth from underserved communities to provide them with literacy programs and new age skill development programs.

New Delhi: Elakia is a young girl who hails from a small town near Chennai and her father runs a modest mobile repair shop. Like most young girls of her age, she aspires to become an engineer one day.

However, lack of English comprehension, poor communication skills, low self-confidence and limited IT skills become a hindrance in fulfilling her dream. Like Alacia, many young people are out there, but a lack of skills training acts as a deterrent in most cases.

NIIT Foundation, a non-profit organization, is working with these youth to develop technical skills and build leadership qualities that will empower them to conquer their dreams.

Established in 2004, with a vision to make a deep impact in the community, NIIT Foundation is committed to provide innovative solutions in training and skilling to the underprivileged children and youth of our country and thereby contribute to nation building.

India has an unmatched youth population, where every fifth (20%) of the world’s youth lives in India. With rapid urbanization and access to the Internet, this demographic has an inclination for technology and an untapped pool of talent for the workforce of the future.

With a presence in 25 states of India, NIIT Foundation’s education and skilling programs are focused on skilling youth and preparing them for a future of work. They also run school programs for children in and out of school and work with a large ecosystem of adults and parents living in urban and rural communities. It aims to create a digitally inclusive and economically literate society, thereby improving the lives of the underprivileged community.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it disrupted the lives of many families, but the most affected were those living in communities that lived on daily wages. The students of NIIT Foundation belong to at-risk families like tailors, house helps, carpenters, small shop owners, auto-rickshaw drivers etc. With families financially supported with support from partners, donors and organizations such as Salesforce, the NIIT Foundation. More than 1500 such students.

When many of us were feeling powerless, not knowing how to reach out and contribute, the students of NIIT Foundation took the lead by participating in a COVID-19 preventive awareness programme. He ensured that his neighbors and friends understood the importance of following the appropriate COVID behavioral protocols and getting vaccinated.

Many beautiful stories have surfaced where students share how helping others helped them find meaning in their lives and develop confidence in these uncertain times.

Emerging from NIIT’s legacy, the NIIT Foundation has harnessed technology to its advantage and strengthened systems, processes and training delivery during the pandemic. The organization quickly moved its programs to an online learning management system (LMS), which enabled students to continue their training using a mobile app at a time when most other educational institutions had closed.

Initially, it was challenging to implement LMS in rural and urban slum areas where internet connectivity and availability of smart gadgets are still not widespread. LMS now works both online with minimum bandwidth as well as offline. Presently it is being used very effectively by more than 135 centers of NIIT Foundation and its 25 NGO partner centres. It has shown better results every month.

NIIT Foundation recognized that while the organization was better prepared to handle the lockdown due to the availability of LMS, support was needed from other NGOs and partners. NIIT Foundation has provided free digital literacy programs to over 100 NGO partners, enabled teachers to create processes for online delivery of their programs, and even provided them with training sessions through LMS. Inspired to be fully present.

Working during the pandemic in disadvantaged communities using digital learning solutions has brought many lessons for the NIIT Foundation, some of which are shared below.

Building relationships and working with the ecosystem- Staying in constant touch with students through video calling is the key to building relationships with students in the digital medium. Nevertheless, there are some challenges and apprehensions that need to be addressed.

For example, students avoid turning on cameras because they are ashamed of their background. In some cases, parents feel concerned about potential video abuse when their girls switch on their cameras.

Digital Learning for NIIT Foundation Students Digital literacy and confidence building is needed for the whole family.

Availability and use of digital tools for learning and providing offline solutions: Digital devices are usually shared family assets. Often, the priority is the parents, siblings and, if permitted, girl students in the household. Consequently, it is very important to offer offline learning through NIIT Foundation LMS, where students can learn as per their flexibility.

Keeping students motivated and engaged despite many challenges: Faculty connect and encouragement is essential for students to work despite various constraints like unreliable internet connectivity, too much background noise, device downtime etc.

A key message emerging from the pandemic has been the importance of resilience. NIIT Foundation has always focused on inculcating change maker qualities in students, and this endeavor has become even more relevant in these difficult times.

The objective of the NIIT Foundation Change Maker program is to help students develop their potential so that they can lead their lives with confidence and conviction while deeply understanding their role in nation building. NIIT’s mission is to enable 100,000 Change Maker students over the next five years.

NIIT Foundation is supported in this journey by many like-minded NGO partners and corporations such as ATC, Sony, Mahindra Finance, HP, Cisco, Microsoft, Indus Tower and HPCL. NIIT Foundation has impacted around 5 million underprivileged students from rural and urban communities and with their support, helped transform around 70,000 youth into work-life.

The foundation is creating a special program especially to focus on underserved youth who may be affected financially due to COVID-19. This includes mentoring them for new job profiles, providing training that will help them develop alternative careers and help them transition into a new industry.

NIIT Foundation realized how important it is to align its CSR programs with government initiatives for long term impact. One such program is the Skill Employment Program, through which Cisco is offering programs in several government universities, engineering colleges, ITIs, polytechnics and grassroots NGOs.

NIIT Foundation, as the implementation partner of this program, is working directly with the Central and State Governments to implement the program in different parts of India. Through this program, Cisco has impacted over 40,000 youth so far. This year the plan aims to expand the program across India and support an additional 40,000 youth. These programs not only focus on skill-building but also help in providing employment to the youth.

As a special initiative this year, the Cisco CSR team has launched a new program to help the Government of India fight COVID. Due to this pandemic and continuous lockdown, many Indians have lost their jobs and are struggling for their livelihood. As a part of this program, we will work with people who have lost their jobs and help them acquire the skills they need to start their careers again.

Input by Vikram Kumar, GM, NIIT Foundation

First published:September 3, 2021, 8:59 pm

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