Support My School, the programme launched by Coca-Cola and its partners has now completed its impact on 1000 schools across the country. In revitalising the 1000 schools during the first phase of the programme, there have been a number of very important lessons learnt for Coca-Cola and its partners.

Since schools from nearly every state in the country were revitalised, Coca-Cola and its partners were able to touch different aspects of needs for the children in all these areas. Each state presented a fresh challenge because of the different needs.

Journey India spoke to the various partners who helped make the programme possible and this is what they had to say:

Sanjay Kumar Sharma, Programme Manager, Charities Aid Foundation: 

“The uniqueness of this programme is that it has tried to look at the gaps, issues related to the school and has cemented those areas in a very effective manner. The results are very encouraging. We have seen that there has been a good amount of increase in students in the schools, especially girls’ enrolment. There is a very effective sanitation facility which has been given, improved water facility and we have also supported in promoting sports.”

Support My School, the programme launched by Coca-Cola and its partners has now completed its impact on 1000 schools across the country. In revitalising the 1000 schools during the first phase of the programme, there have been a number of very important lessons learnt for Coca-Cola and its partners.

Since schools from nearly every state in the country were revitalised, Coca-Cola and its partners were able to touch different aspects of needs for the children in all these areas. Each state presented a fresh challenge because of the different needs.

Journey India spoke to the various partners who helped make the programme possible and this is what they had to say:

Sanjay Kumar Sharma, Programme Manager, Charities Aid Foundation: 

“This particular project actually helped us in five key components of water sanitation in 272 schools. Those were specifically about water, rain water harvesting, playgrounds, environment in schools, separate toilets for girls and boys, handwashing training and also strengthening school management committees. We realise that it is a must because that is (good) school governance; and for any infrastructure/ facility to be maintained and sustained, it is important to engage with the governing bodies of the school. And that’s where you have participation of communities, teachers, children, principals” 

It Uttar Pradesh, an organisation called PANI (People’s Action for National Integration) decided to take up the issues around education and health care for children. Since schools were their focus, PANI’s association with the Support My School programme extended across the 19 districts in which they were active in the state.

Bharat Bhushan, PANI:

“Regarding water and cleanliness, when we noticed the ‘chalta hai’ (‘anything goes’) attitude of the people and studied it in detail. We thought of changing this habit. So, we aligned the campaign towards children. Then we realised that if the children want to see the change, only then will the attitude of the people towards these issues will change. So, we focused on children and started with schools.”

Since the launch of SMS in 2010, after the initial years of hard work, the results have started to show. According to the Sustainability Update 2016-17, till the end of 2016, SMS schools have seen an increase of nearly 15 per cent in enrolment for the girl child. In select schools, children have been able to make their mark in a number of ways. While some have taken to academic brilliance, some have made their mark in sports.

Dr. Y Suresh Reddy, SRF Foundation:

“We began our journey in Mewat, where a cluster of schools had started working. We have completed all the four different components of the programme. Out of these four, one is about creating the sports facilities and promoting sports in school for the healthy and happy living of the children. In one particular school in Nuh block of Mewat district in Haryana, children spent their time playing handball as well as kabaddi. When we created the facilities in the school, the teacher and students worked hard to participate in the block, district and state levels for handball and kabaddi. All the schools in the 19 blocks are now excelling in sports.”

The very outlook towards the village or town changes for children when they realise that they will be the beneficiaries of what is being built. A small child once narrated that to Dhruv Dalmia of Roundtable India and that is a memory etched in his mind forever.

Dhruv Dalmia, Roundtable India:

“I am talking about this project which we were doing near Kanpur where infrastructure was being built. Generally, what we do is, we go there on Sundays and in between the week and monitor what is going on. We were (once) just standing there and looking at what was going on. And suddenly this small child came beside me, tucked on my shirt and said “Are you seeing this?” I told him I was. “You know who is this being made for?” he asked. “This is being made for me”, he told us. That moment was one when we realised the impact that we are making.”

Not every child is lucky enough to have access to these facilities. Even if they do, nearly 100 million children across South Asia drop out by the time they get to high school. That number has been a concern for policymakers from several countries. Schools need to create a healthy learning environment which can ensure that children do not fall off the learning map. Since other South Asian countries face a similar situation, the learnings from Support My School in India are now being replicated elsewhere too.

Bhushan Tuladhar, UN HABITAT:

“What we’ve done is taken the Support My School example that has been so successful in India – to neighbouring countries – Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, even Pakistan and so on. What we see are couple of things: one, there is so much similarity in the context- the need is there in India as well as some other countries. The context is very similar. We see that in the (entire) region. For example, a large number of children actually do go to school. They do enroll in school – 94%. But what happens is that after the first enrolment, slowly the dropout rate gets very high.”

During the next phase of the programme, Coca-Cola has announced that it will reach out to 5000 schools, as SMS has evolved into Mission Recycling. Along with its partners, Coca-Cola is now looking to drive home the importance of recycling among children who are change agents for a better tomorrow.