Education is key to a brighter future
In the little Indian village of Jodikrishnapura, 120 children have finally got a proper English language teacher. Scania pays her salary – and hopes that one day some of her students will come to work at the production facility located right next to the school.
India is the first country in the world to create legislation governing the corporate social responsibility (CSR) work done by privately owned companies. Under new guidelines, all companies are required to spend two percent of their net profit on community development.
Scania’s subsidiary in India is currently in an establishment phase and doesn’t yet turn a profit. Despite this, Scania has initiated assistance work in the four villages that are located nearest to the company’s factory and head office in Narasapura, east of Bangalore.
Focus on education
Scania’s CSR work in the area began when Lisen Thulin, CSR Manager in India, did a survey with village councils, local politicians, teachers and journalists to identify the biggest challenges facing the 2,000 or so inhabitants.
“We quickly came to the conclusion that unemployment – due to the low level of education – was the biggest and most fundamental problem,” she says.
As a result, one of the first projects was to provide support to the four Government primary schools in the villages, which together have 300 students. Scania has employed and pays the salary of an English-language teacher, and has also funded the installation of running water and toilets in the schools.
“It may seem like a small thing, but it means a great deal to the children’s health and ability to learn,” says Thulin. “The toilets also mean that greater numbers of girls now want to come to the schools.”
Building a better life
Scania is always looking for well-trained workers and would prefer to recruit locally in India. “So, as well as contributing to school children getting a better life, we of course also want them to stay on in the area, get further education and maybe one day work for Scania.”
In Jodikrishnapura, one of the four villages, a Scania transport has just arrived with drinking water in large containers. Eager students help to carry the water containers to the common kitchen, where women from the village are preparing today’s lunch for school children. Some 125 children are served nourishing food every day. In the classroom just next door, 20 or so students have just begun an English lesson.
Despite numerous health programs, undernourishment is a major problem in India. Malnutrition among women is one of the major causes of low birth weight among infants and poor growth. Scania is also supporting a program in the villages for, among other things, distributing spirulina, a nourishing algae with a high protein content that contributes to reducing undernourishment.
Change from within
Soumya Ningappa is Scania’s newly appointed head of CSR in Scania India.
“Scania also supports local inhabitants through an education program for health issues, run in association with local doctors, self-help groups and ASHA community health workers who are considered to be locally trained nurses,” she says.
Much of the help work also involves increasing knowledge, changing attitudes and insisting on a mutual commitment to improving things in the villages
“That’s why we work a lot with self-help groups,” she says. “No one wants to create a situation where the villages become dependent on outside help. Change always has to come from within.”