Kolkata: Project Muskaan – an initiative of Prabha Khaitan Foundation and Education for All Trust and supported by Shree Cement – will reach out to thousands of students across India to popularise heritage literature and culture by engaging them in cultural programmes, story-telling, dance, music, puppetry, theatre and art. Distributing nutritious food and basic hygienic amenities are also a part of this project for needy children.
Over 100 schools from all over India are on-board with Muskaan’s various initiatives. Muskaan has started interactive sessions on the literature and the cultural heritage of India by involving eminent Indian writers and social workers like Ruskin Bond and Sudha Murty. These sessions, organised in collaboration with a pan-India network of schools and educational institutions, have added performing arts onto the school’s extended curriculum and have helped talented students get national exposure.
Project Muskaan is the brainchild of Kolkata-based social activist and culturist Sundeep Bhutoria of Prabha Khaitan Foundation. “The Indian literary and cultural universe is so vast that it is impossible for any syllabus to cover it fully. We, as children and students, have missed out on so many aspects of our rich Indian heritage. Project Muskaan is an attempt to fill in this gap in a playful and entertaining manner. Muskaan also addresses the various needs and issues faced by students. We are very thankful to Shree Cement for supporting project Muskaan as a part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative,” said Bhutoria, who also spearheads Education for All Trust – a not-for-profit organisation for promoting education among the needy students.
“Shree Cement, as a part of our CSR initiative, has, over the years, started many initiatives for the empowerment of women, support for the elderly, the spread of education and skill development, supporting the family of martyrs and so on. Muskaan is yet another great opportunity to help the marginalised students and also spread awareness of our rich Indian heritage and culture,” said H M Bangur, Managing Director, Shree Cement.
The Muskaan project is in line with India’s New Education Policy and aims to make education more effective and widespread by adopting modern pedagogical methods. “The idea is to promote and create awareness of our rich Indian heritage beyond the textbooks. In order to address other needs of students, Muskaan conducts sessions on stress management before exams, motivational talks, career counselling and public speaking,” said Sumitra Ray, Student Programme Advisor, Prabha Khaitan Foundation.
Other activities of Muskaan include skill-building courses and workshops for the marginalised students and helping them with tuition/coaching classes, stationeries and study materials. “We started with pilot projects in the National Capital Region and have now covered major cities of India. The various events and sessions hosted by Muskaan have garnered great appreciation not only from the students but also from principals, teachers and parents,” said Ms Ray.
“Mrs Sudha Murty taught us the importance of giving and the power of simplicity. She lives by the principle of simple living and high thinking. In a very short session she taught us an important life lesson – Kindness,” said Annanmay Daga, a Class V student of La Martiniere for Boys, Kolkata.
“The Ruskin Bond Session was very insightful. He encouraged us to keep reading and writing and slowly develop a story. The coolest part was to receive a copy of his book. The Sudha Murty session sent a powerful message: The more words you know, the more power you have. “She was extremely inspiring,” said Kishmish Ahuja, a parent of Avantika Ahuja from Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai.
“The Muskaan sessions were very engaging, enriching and interesting and the students thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt a very important lesson – You can ask questions to your teachers but the way you ask should not come across as rude or insensitive,” said Pooja Thakur, Principal of The Shri Ram School, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi.