MAD has come up with a scheme that gives underprivileged children access to the best English books from Cambridge University Press

Taking their initiative to make a qualitative difference in the lives of under privileged kids a step more forward, Make A Difference (MAD) has entered a corporate tie-up with Cambridge University Press (CUP). CUP will be the knowledge partner of MAD, which means MAD will get CUP's English for Schools curriculum at “highly subsidised rates” as Jithin Nedumala of MAD puts it.

MAD came up with the idea of getting in touch with authors of the books in the United Kingdom, for photocopying privileges and they were routed to the CUP and the Indian operation and the rest, as they say, is history. The curriculum, says Sanjana also of MAD, focuses on not just the written skills but also overall comprehension of the language. “Access to this curriculum will put ‘our' kids on a par with students educated in other schools. Each of 2,500 kids, in various parts of the country, will have access to these books,” he adds. The advantage of following the curriculum is that the student gets a certificate, the ‘First Certificate in English' which is accepted by major universities and corporates, “which increases the employability of the student; a student educated in a vernacular school becomes on a par with one educated in good quality private schools,” says Jithin.

Says Sunil Mohan, general manager, Cambridge University Press (South India, Sri Lanka and Maldives), “We are associated with Make A Difference and we are treating it as our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project. We believe that there are segments in society which need and can use the books, and it will be of help to them. We are also working with English Language Teaching (ELT) experts on the curriculum etc, these books are the original ones, in fact a special edition for MAD.”

The books in the curriculum comprise a student's book, a work book and a teacher's book. The actual prices of the books are, for the Students Book – Rs. 1,280, (MAD gets it for Rs. 99) Rs. 700 for the workbook, (MAD gets it for Rs. 39) and for Teacher's Book, cost: Rs. 1420 (MAD price: Rs. 130). The amount required to get the books comes from ZOHO, a US based software development company.

The focus of the whole MAD programme is not just the student but also the teacher because a teacher is only as good as her/his students. And that explains the accent in the training of the volunteers. The volunteer teachers are trained by Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) trainers. It is not just books that CUP will provide, in two cities as a test run it will train the volunteer teachers as well. Teachers who volunteer with MAD at the end of their stint will get a teacher training certificate issued by MAD, says Jithin.

That is not all, those interested in interning at MAD for some management experience can do so. The non-teaching volunteers can intern in Human Resources, Operations, Public Relations and Placements. They too will get a certificate issued by MAD “which will add value during MBA admissions etc.” For instance, Jithin says, Janice D'Sousa, a volunteer in Mangalore got a Microsoft scholarship to complete her graduation in the US.

It was just a random effort which has translated into such a change; from dreary black and white photocopies to bright, colourful textbooks…hope that translates into the lives of the kids for whom these books are meant.