On a mission to spread awareness on health and to improve the education standards at schools in rural and backward areas of the state, the SMILE Charitable Trust (SCT) is promoting high-quality hygiene, cleanliness and sanitation at government schools.
Founded in 2015 by a group of former schoolmates of Mountain View School, Chikkamagaluru, the SCT was the result of a brainstorming session they had when they met at a reunion after almost three decades. “A few of us had the idea of taking some concrete steps to provide financial assistance to weaker sections of society. We then concluded that the best way to do it would be to start an organisation that facilitates quality education to underprivileged youngsters. That was the mission behind our decision to form the SMILE (Support Matters in Life Everyday) Charitable Trust. It took some time for us to agree on the name, but we decided to go with something that would be simple, but at the same time project a positive energy,” said Ms Sangeetha Srikishen, Managing Trustee, SCT, who is also a well-known Carnatic musician.
Since then, their programmes have reached out to more schools and team SCT now aims to make every school in the country self sufficient in hygiene, cleanliness and sanitation. The team does a thorough research on the requirements of a school, conducts awareness programmes, constructs toilets and signs up for the maintenance of these toilets. Also, SCT has expanded its operations to support students with their fees and other requirements.
“We hope that one day, we will be able to completely wipe out and cut the chain of poverty by eradicating lack of sanitation in schools and poor economic condition of students, which often lead to dropouts. Helping underprivileged students pursue better quality education is equally important and these goals power our initiatives,” said Mr Raaghav Ballal, Director – India Operations, SCT.
The NGO, based in Malleswaram in the city, has now completed building close to 200 toilet units in schools across rural parts of Karnataka. The team takes the complete responsibility of maintaining these toilets and hires women from local communities, generating employment for the local communities, which is believed to be unique for SCT.
The team also replenishes toiletries every month and conducts personal hygiene, environmental cleanliness and interactive sessions with children. Team SCT claims that its flagship project, Swachalaya, has benefited many schools and provided proper sanitation to schools that once had dilapidated toilets or never had one. This also has improved attendance at these schools, the team claims.
Another project, Smile Vidyarthi, aims at educational welfare of students from underprivileged backgrounds. “We ensure that tuition fees, uniforms, shoes and study materials are provided for all the students we take under our care, irrespective of their academic merit,” Ms Srikishen explained. Close to a hundred students pursuing school and college education at 35 different institutions have been part of this programme.
She said that over the years, the team has learnt that there is still a big scope for improvement in the education sector. If students are supported, irrespective of their backgrounds, they can perform as good as the other students, she pointed out. Apart from education and sanitation, SCT is also proposing to take up the entire infrastructure requirements of economically backward schools from 2020.
The feather in the cap was the Chanakya Award presented to SCT by the Public Relation Council of India (PRCI) this year....