This is our first Annual Report. Considering it’s happening just when we are on our 20th year, I am realizing that it would be almost impossible to contain my jottings here for the current year. It’s a nostalgic moment for me, as its strongly focused around the people that have been part of this journey with wide array of talents or simply to serve!
My first memory is about meeting a very sensitive, extremely talented and passionate young student of Fine Arts in 1998, when CLT was just born. Avi was our first volunteer and over the next few months, through his drive and passion, CLT had gained many young people with so much to give and wanted an opportunity to serve. They became the core of CLT - the brick and mortar of the organization for the next 4-5 years. This became a pattern and many more bubbles of volunteer groups started emerging, with each owning a piece of CLT’s dream to create equal learning opportunities for all children! Women volunteers to run ‘Food Bank’, friends in U.S. doing fundraising and the young artists helping me to build an organization! This was before a Mission statement or a website or a blog and definitely before we had any money to have a paid staff. Their sense of giving was so contagious and complete, it became a hub for spreading joy!
‘Come Share our Joy’, created as a bi-line by these youngsters became a guiding compass for the rest of us and still is today!
And, so the journey begins, by gradually realizing that while our efforts to serve the children in underserved communities were sincere, to amplify it into a more impactful, sustainable outcome, we needed to bring in a more organized, well thought-out structures and systems. We had also zeroed in on one thing we wanted to focus on by year 2002, that was to address the missed learning opportunities of children in government schools, where the acute shortage of teachers was daunting. We were also becoming aware that the region-specific complexities were beyond the scope of heads of these schools; and hence our norms, as a country, were adjusted to the unavailability of teachers and lack of resources and had become a way of life. Consequently, our children’s aspirations for quality education was compromised.
Foraying into technology was never thought of as an option to replace teachers or to provide solutions as a stand-alone intervention; rather, as a means to capture the best teaching practices and innovative ideas and to create a distribution channel for easy access to resources. Curricula-aligned content from select set of passionate Master Teachers created and curated at CLT Resource Hub that would be delivered to Spoke Schools; by leveraging on the strength of technology to replicate and distribute at a low-cost. One incident I recall was a trigger that helped my conviction to more actionable drive. I was being part of a Science workshop that was led by Mr. Baluragi – a national award winner for popularizing Hands-On Science with locally available materials. By localization of content and connecting students to Science principles in their immediate environment with very simple experiments, he was able to inspire students. It occurred to me that day that his passion for Science must be experienced by as many children as possible and technology could help us do that. I am proud to say that Mr. Baluragi became our Science advisor and all his real-time experiments are part of our vast repository of digital content in many regional languages that more than 900,000 students in remote villages are able to learn and enjoy Science barring the distance to travel to meet Mr. Baluragi!
It was, nevertheless, an extremely expensive proposition for a non-profit that ran only on limited grants. On the other hand, the timing couldn’t be better, because, although there had been other players catering to the private school sector, this field in underserved space was wide open. It took us many years and some models that weren’t sustainable to understand that we were treading in unknown territory and not too many people were investing their efforts and money on digital interventions to support curricula in rural government schools. Our first challenge was to redefine that digital content had to look a certain way with heavy graphics that made it cost-prohibitive. Our focus was going to be on good relevant pedagogy, presented in an interesting manner, with low-cost technology delivery model that could be accessed in no internet connectivity areas. This set the premise. Bringing the STEM focus and into many regional languages and adding the android and the data analytics piece over the years, was an evolution of the product that was dictated by the needs across States!
Today, CLT, as an institution, is very strong with a Board that engages at a strategic level with a collective life-time experiences of running organizations to research to being on many Boards. We have all the statutory components in place, and many due-diligence processes behind us, including FICCI, Guidestar, TISS and CAF. CLT has a Platinum Award for transparency. As a learning model, under the banner of CLTe-Patashale, CLT has bagged many awards for low-cost innovation and has arrived as a thought leader in this space, giving me confidence that we are poised for accelerated growth to reach our resources to many more children across the globe in formal and informal learning spaces. The Board’s wise decision to bring Omar on board as a Chief Strategy Officer has infused every cell of the organization with rigor and new aspirations to reach every child that deserves quality education. Our hope is by giving affordable access to quality resources through technology, we can increase equity in learning opportunities.