CSR Interview with Uday Bikasani, VP – IT, CA Technologies on STEM Education

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 By Rusen Kumar

Under the Corporate Social Responsibilities, CA Technologies has undertaken to build an environment of learning by doingIt has multiple educational programs in place to the children have a transformational experience.

In India, it has partners with various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to help improve the quality of education in the economically backward sections of the society. In partnership with HOPE Foundation, CA Technologies has adopted HOPE School since 2004. As part of this, primary education (up to grade 4) is provided including breakfast and meals, bags, books, school uniforms, tuitions and other basic amenities besides meeting the complete operating costs. Parents of students are counselled from time to time to ensure parents understand the importance of education and reduce drop-out rates. CA Technologies employees volunteer for various activities such as helping organize Independence and Republic Day, children’s day, school annual day, graduation day, excursion and teaching over weekends.

Uday Bikasani, VP, Information Technology, CA Technologies shared his views with Rusen Kumar, India CSR Network on how his company is serving the society particularly in education and STEM Learning at large scale.

Please give an overview of CA’s CSR journey in India

CA Technologies (India) CSR journey in India started 14 years ago, by adopting HOPE primary school in Habsiguda Hyderabad in collaboration with HOPE Foundation. Eventually this school became well known as the CA HOPE School and was focused on providing primary education opportunities to children in the underserved areas of this community. We are very proud of this 14-year journey and partnership with HOPE, as the first batch of girl students from this school have successfully completed their high school education and are currently pursuing their bachelors’ education. We continue to fund their education and are hoping to create employment opportunities for them once they graduate from college.

In addition to this, we have also partnered with multiple NGO;’s including Pratham, India Literacy Project (ILP), Youth for Seva (YFS) and Project 511 to deliver impactful initiatives in our community. Our CSR program also puts a lot of emphasis on employee volunteerism to engage our workforce in making a meaningful impact in the communities where we live and work.

What are the key focus areas for CA’s CSR initiatives?

Education: Globally, CA Technologies is committed to helping close the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills gap by expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women, girls and underrepresented students.   Our aim is to build brighter futures by providing access and opportunities and to achieve that, we partner with nonprofits around the world and engage our workforce in making a difference in the communities where we live and work.

Sustainability: As a global company with thousands of employees and customers, we know we’re in a great position to make a positive impact on the world. So we work to advance social, environmental and economic stability wherever we can.

Volunteerism & Giving Back: We believe in the power of our employees to make a difference. Service and volunteering have long been a part of the culture at CA, and our employees regularly give their time and talent to help those in need. We also empower our workforce to support what matters to them with one-to-one matching gifts to nonprofits. CA Technologies provides 5 business days of leave per employee to volunteer for an organization of their choice. Also, corporate matches a maximum of USD 10,000 per fiscal as part of the matching gifts program.

What is CA’s long-term vision and mission with their CSR initiatives?

As a tech company in a fast-paced world, we’re deeply invested in promoting skills that build, maintain and secure the digital world we now live in. We know diverse perspectives are key to driving innovation and creativity. That’s why we support the advancement of underrepresented sections of the society including minorities, women and girls in technology and support our own workforce in realizing their professional goals.

In line with this we launched an initiative called STEM10 which brings together a collaboration of diverse minds inspiring future leaders to be exactly who they’d like to be. It’s about building a foundation for the future by breaking down the barriers to STEM education.

What are your ongoing CSR projects? How do you assess the impact?

We have a number of projects, but let me give you 2 examples on how we are making a difference.

We fund science education labs in partnership with Pratham. A fairly standard assessment system developed by Pratham is used to measure the impact on the students. In the last year, 7000+ students used these facilities and we expect to build a few more and improve the overall number of students who have access to the basic science and technology education through these programs.

In partnership with India literacy Project (ILP), we adopted 4 schools that needed our support in and around Hyderabad. These schools were lacking the most basic infrastructure and needed additional class rooms, teachers and other support to make them more effective. We measured the success on this project as increase in enrollment and that metric has shot up by 30 to 50% in the schools over the past 2 years.  We were able to engage the community and work with the local government to partner with us in sharing the cost of deploying additional class rooms, teachers, digital aids. This year’s assessment showed us that 70% of the students in this school are at their grade level capability and we hope to get it to 100% in the coming year.

Who are your partners? How do you choose them?

CA Technologies works with very few and liked minded partners who have proven experience in improving the quality of education and educational infrastructure  in  schools and communities that need the support. We are proud to work with India Literacy Project, Pratham, Youth For Seva, HOPE Foundation and Project 511.   While we do take up smaller engagements based on employee interest and engagement,  most of our major projects  are focussed on helping our current partners scale up their activities.  We recently partnered with HYSEA (Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association) and its NGO partner NIRMAN to support the newly launched Digital Disruption Initiative and hope to make a difference with them

Please detail out on your collaboration with Pratham Foundation. How is it helping in the upskilling of children?

CA Technologies started collaborating with Pratham since 2015. As part of the collaboration, we have funded 2 projects – Science Labs Program and Second Chance program.

Science Program works on the methodology of Learning by Doing. This methodology has proven to improve children’s conceptual understanding and application skills of basic concepts in science. It allows children to explore the world of science through workshops facilitated by Pratham Instructors, in which children engage in model making, experiments, and group activities. The workshops and activities are designed to equip students with scientific vocabulary, reasoning skills, tool handling skills, observation skills and the ability to draw conclusions.

The way Pratham engages the community and elders in these activities has been a big difference in the way they execute this program. Community engagement activities include sky watching, Camp Galileo – An astronomy-based workshop – workshops on food adulteration, health and hygiene, regular film screenings, etc. have a wider reach across the villages in both age and literacy levels.

In the year 2017-18, village-based libraries have been set up in Science Program locations across the country. These libraries aim to promote reading as a habit, and learning beyond school hours. In addition to books curated by Pratham, the community in each village also contribute, giving children a wide variety of books to choose from. The libraries are supported by volunteers from the village – usually young adults in high school or college, or even children’s parents – and are trained by Pratham Instructors, who also visit on a regular basis to monitor the activities. 7824 children have been reached in 2017-18 (as of December 2017) across the three CA Technologies’ supported locations.

Last year, CSR and CA Women’s forum partnered with Pratham in funding the Second Chance program in 2016-17. As a part of this program, young and older women who have dropped out of school were assisted to complete their secondary school certificate examinations. Along-with completing their education, they were also trained in soft skills like presentation ability, conversational skills, self-confidence and English speaking. Also, a component of vocational skilling was added to support future opportunities for the young women.

Overall, this partnership has been fantastic, and we look forward to doing a lot more with Pratham in the coming years.

Working at the grassroots level, what are the challenges that you face?

In the early days of our engagement we had 3 broad areas of issues.  First was our ability to create programs that can scale. It was a real challenge as the needs of each community/village were very different and we neither had the expertise nor the time to design and deploy sustainable programs at scale. Second was the issues centered around the reluctance of the parents and community to participate in the improvement activities. They saw a multi-national company and its employees with a big heart, but were not sure if they could trust this company to come in and change the way their schools worked. Finally, engaging the teachers and staff to get them onboard with the new teaching techniques was a challenge too.

To overcome these challenges, we decided to mostly work through large partners for CSR activities in the education space. Our CSR partners have extensive experience in identifying problems, engaging the government and local community; and they have proven programs that are scalable and sustainable. In addition to this, our partners have built fantastic rapport with local leaders and are trusted by the community in general. This works out well for us as we review proposals, fund the programs, volunteer along with our partners and monitor the progress of the programs instead of executing them by ourselves.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the interviewee in this feature are entirely his own and does not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR Network and its Editor.

Terms & Conditions: India CSR Network does not permit other Websites/Agency to copy or reproduce or reprint the above article/feature in any form.

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