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How KITE changed these children's lives
Sangeeta Singh | October 08, 2005
Jyoti, Simoli, Irfan, Laxmi and Tehmina are some of the underprivileged children that live in Delhi's large slum area, Govindpuri. They all go to a school where the monthly fee of Rs 100 decreases depending on how regular they are with their classes and work, the frequency with which their parents come to parent-teacher meetings and so on.
And it seems to be working: Simoli has just come back to school after a gap of three years (which she had to take due to family circumstances), and Irfan says he misses school only when it is absolutely necessary.
However, it is not only the fees that drive the children to attend classes. They love to go to school because they like the way they are taught and for the sheer joy of getting to use the computers installed for them.
They go to Katha Information Technology and E-commerce School, KITES in the heart of Govindpuri. KITES is a non-conventional school which exists thanks to a joint initiative undertaken by British telecom major BT and Delhi-based NGO Katha four years back.
The school offers information and communication skills to children from the poorest communities. BT has supplied computers and other equipment to these students, who otherwise would probably have never been able to use a computer in their lives. As Jyoti puts it: "Before joining KITES I never imagined that I would ever get to use a computer."
According to Arun Seth, chairman BT India, it is a part of BT's endeavour to fill the digital divide between the haves and have nots. But why did BT choose KITES? "KITES combines Katha and BT's expertise -- learning and ICT -- and BT wants to break the circle of poverty and improve the quality of life of underprivileged children," says Seth, adding that a number of KITES graduates have got productive employment in related fields.
Katha has been working with poor children who have either never attended school or who have dropped out for the last 15 years. Today over 1,200 children go to KITES.
Last week, KITES received a BT award for participating in a global BT-sponsored *sleepover on June 18-19, 2005.
Out of the 372 students who took part, five shared their experiences. Confident and happy, each of these five narrated how they enjoyed themselves and made friends overseas through the webcam and a large projector.
According to BT India, this was one of the biggest sleepovers recorded in history, with over 30,000 children world-wide participating and smashing the Guinness World sleepover record.
The BT CSR team along with Katha teachers helped children write their friendship messages on a 45 ft banner to others participating in the event across the world. Children also made friendship bands, exchanged greetings, organised face painting, held a fancy dress competition and took part in a midnight feast.
BT has spent over £50,000 in three years in its India CSR (corporate social responsibilities) initiatives. It is also launching LifeLines India in support of one of the UN Millennium Development Goals on digital inclusion to help rural farmers access critical veterinary and agribusiness advice. For this, it has earmarked £1,00,000 per year.
The company is also working on a toll-free distress voicemail service with pilot projects in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. This is expected to help the rural poor seeking advice on various fronts. Besides this, it is about to start aiding another school in Pune along similar lines as KITES.
BT India, which has been in the country for 10 years and works with HCL Technologies, Wipro, Infosys and BT Mahindra, is definitely narrowing the gap created by the digital revolution in India.* An occasion of spending a night away from home or having a guest spend the night in your home (especially as a party for children)