Good education is akin to light in the darkness. Quality schooling lays the foundation of good citizenship — but what does one do when schools are left to crumble and decay?
Three years ago, Rajesh Yadav a village headmaster in Uttar Pradesh, found his institution equally bereft of resources and students. He stepped up to find a solution and found help from a group of graduating college students.
A few students from BITS Pilani have taken it upon themselves to restore the school with a campaign named School Chale Hum.
The campaign is the brainchild of Pranjal Singh and Navkaran Deep, both students of BITS Pilani. It was Pranjal who first raised the issues faced by the school, located in his maternal village Ambari, which functioned despite the absence of even essential amenities like benches and desks.
Located in the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, Ambari is a small village with a primarily rural economy. The first glimpse of an industrial culture lies miles away from the village. The local school — Prathamic Vidyalaya — boasts a legacy that goes back almost a century. The school also has an impressive list of alumni, including the likes of Ram Naresh Yadav, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and a number of MLAs and MPs.
Yet in recent decades, the school has gradually slumped into a state of disrepair due to lack of funds and dwindling interest among locals to preserve its heritage.
Navkaran says, “When the new headmaster — who is also Pranjal’s mama (maternal uncle) — joined the school three years ago, there were a total of 30 students in the primary school. There was no boundary wall — all sorts of animals entered the school during the day. Come night, local vagabonds would take advantage of the situation and start drinking on the school premises. It barely seemed like a school.”
The dedicated headmaster took it upon himself to change the situation for the better. With help from the teachers, he built an outer compound and also installed power backup for the school. Two blocks of the school building were more than five decades old, and were also renovated.
The school receives only a meagre maintenance allowance from the authorities. “Over two years, all the appeals to the authorities yielded no response,” says Navkaran. “As a result, the headmaster and teachers of the school have paid for the renovation and maintenance themselves.
Today, the number of students in the primary school has gone up sizeably — a total of 220 children now study in the various classes.
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The School Chale Hum campaign aims to build on the initiatives taken by the school’s faculty. Chinmayee Bhamburkar, another BITS Pilani alumnus who has joined the campaign team recently, says, “The system needs more than one person to keep the school operations. Our fundraiser is the starting point to ensure that Pranjal’s uncle can keep up his good work.”
The group drew from its experience in the past, having often come to the aid of students and educational institutions. “Our group has always been invested in working for development in the education sector,” Navkaran says.
The group has raised funds worth ₹1.3 lakh to facilitate the education of an auto driver’s daughter in Pilani, installed power backup for a slum school in the outskirts of Hyderabad and raised ₹50,000 to provide solar lamps for students living among the fishing community in Surathkal.
Realising that the school’s biggest challenge is lack of funds, the team came up with a crowdfunding campaign to rebuild the institution further.
The primary focus of the campaign is equipping the classrooms with desks and benches.
Currently, all the students sit on the ground and study — while it’s bearable in the summers, sitting on the ground in the region’s winters is a bone-chilling experience.
The school also lacks a library and adequate teaching tools. Part of the funds raised will be used to build a library. The team hopes that with their personal connections in the village, they will be able to lay the foundation for the school to grow in myriad ways.
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“We want everyone to have access to good education,” says Chinmayee. “This is one school, but there are many others like this.” She is currently waiting to graduate, while those like Pranjal and Navkaran have already graduated and are working.
Juggling their multi-faceted commitments, the group of young changemakers is hoping to make a substantial difference in the lives of Ambari’s children.