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  • They are on a mission to rebuild schools, one at a time


    Bengaluru :

    Teachers taking lessons out in the open, owing to dilapidated conditions of government school buildings, coupled with the constant fear of the fragile roof collapsing over their head, was a common sight across Karnataka and Maharashtra for a bunch of IT and other professionals, based in the US, seeking to improve the education system in India.

    One School At A Time (OSAAT), set out on a mission to improve schools in the country, where infrastructure translates to decaying walls, absent toilets, crumbling celing and lack of basic amenities. The organisation has been spearheading projects in the two states for more than a decade.

    OSAAT-USA was established in 2003 in San Jose bay area, when a group of like-minded IT professionals seeking to build a safe and healthy learning environment in India came together. Its India arm, OSAAT-India was incorporated in 2012, and is headquartered out of Bengaluru. The venture began when OSAAT’s management trustee, Vadiraj Bhatt visited his hometown, Bajagoli village in Karkala, Udupi on a vacation from the USA, around the same time when he and other IT professionals were looking for a specific area to invest their efforts.

    “My teacher informed me about a school where students were being taught under a tree. After that, we realised that there are many schools without a proper building. The idea was to embark on something that few or no one had touched in education,” said Bhatt.

    Upon returning to Bengaluru for good in 2005, he formed a team of nine equally passionate volunteers of mostly IT and retired professionals. In the space of a decade, OSAAT has rebuilt or completely renovated fifteen schools in Karnataka and rural Maharashtra.

    Bhatt pointed out that funds raised by OSAAT-USA account for nearly 90% of the finances for the project. “In India, we have partnered with organisations such as Rotary in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Bhadravathi and POWER in Bijapur, who have helped us get manpower and intelligent engineers, who ensure that the reconstruction of schools is achieved without loopholes,” he added.

    Monika Venkateshmurthy, who is championing the cause in the US, said that fund-raising for OSAAT projects in India had turned into an inclusive effort. A hardware engineer by profession, Monika said, “There are people in the city who want to donate but don’t have enough knowledge on how to go about it. When they asked, ‘Why should I spend money for a school 10,000 miles away,’ I explained the value of a single dollar in India.”

    Vadiraj’s elder brother, GK Bhatt, who retired as an assistant general manager at Vijaya Bank three years ago, joined his brother and is putting his experience as a banker to use as OSAAT-India’s treasurer, although he also enjoys working with volunteers in the field.

    “We have no clue about so many things, unless we see it for ourselves. In one of the schools we worked on recently in Yeshwanthpur, Malur, there was a cow shed adjacent to the school building. The children were exposed to the filth and mosquitoes, due to the poor maintenance of the cow shed,” GK Bhatt said.

    Speaking on the road ahead for OSAAT, he added, “We want to take it to the next level by partnering with corporates, who would want to take up such projects under their CSR initiatives. They could donate funds for the purpose and also participate actively in the process, while we rebuild a school.”

    ‘We want to create a template for the future’
    “We want to propose a model – the concept of working on a cluster of schools, like we did in Malur taluk with three schools – to the government. We are aiming at creating a template of work, based on our association with the revenue department, block education officers and panchayat, showing the authorities that this is how work must be taken up in the future. We want to create a blueprint for quality education by emphasising on the need for proper infrastructure.”
    – Vadiraj Bhatt | Management Trustee, OSAAT-India

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Bangalore / Deepika Burli / TNN / August 07th, 2016

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