A combination of people migrating from the hilly hinterlands of Uttarakhand to other parts of the state and preference of private schools over the government ones have given rise to a dangerous trend in the north Indian state. Media reports have suggested that more than 700 government schools with less than 10 students have shut down in both Kumaun and Garhwal regions of Uttarakhand.
Around 2340 schools located in both the divisions are at the brink of closure owing to its dwindling number of students. While this has become a major concern for the state government, educationist and activist Anita Nautiyal, with her unique initiative is trying to touch each child’s lives with quality education and life-development skills.
The Logical Indian spoke to Anita Nautiyal who has been running an after-school programme in the Tehri Garhwal district of the state. The name of the unique establishment is Anand Vatika Green Gurukulam which seeks to bridge the educational gap between the rural and urban children. Nautiyal said that the school, of which Anita is the principal, was established on August 18, 2016, Uttarakhand’s Tehri Garhwal district.
A unique school-after-school initiative
She said, “I found out that the only difference between school students from elsewhere and those in Uttarakhand is the quality of education that they receive.” To fight the problem, she first thought of establishing an English medium school. However, the idea was soon put to rest after they found that even the state government was thinking of the same. It was then that she came up with the after-school project which aims to support and facilitate government school education.
Nothing about these classes are conventional says, Anita. Students, mostly between classes I to VIII sit inside the same classroom where a volunteer teacher teaches different topics using interactive classroom teaching methods. Green Gurukulam does not follow a set syllabus but instead follows the “Syllabi-Ahead-of-School- Syllabi” concept which fills the learning gaps among children. It also calls for fundamental positive changes in the personality of the students.
The teachers in this institution are also volunteers who impart skill-based knowledge. Anita added that they have a large number of national and international teacher volunteers who sign up for teaching the kids. Their centres are available in three locations across the district and they cater to close to 100 students in total and classes are held between 4 pm to 7 pm during summers and 4 pm to 5:30 pm during winters. The children mostly belong to either government or government-aided schools in the district.
Talking about one of the classroom sessions, she said, “A software engineer volunteered for us who taught computer language to the students by making them play games. Additionally, the students also get exposed to different cultures with the coming in of international teacher volunteers, she added.
While the institution’s growth has been slow, mostly because of opposition from local stakeholders and government school teachers, Anita said that the development among those who attend classes have been phenomenal. “I am amazed to see the improvement in their personalities and English language vocabulary,” she added.
Their initiative has received support from the authorities and principle’s of different schools but has failed to yield many results in absolute terms. Having to work mostly with school teachers, Anita said that she often has to face criticism from them. While the founding members of the organisation have set up a trust under the banner of Green Gurukulam, funding for the operations of the schools mostly come from donations.
Even in that, locals are wary of lending monetary support to the noble initiative and Anita is left to rely upon others for monetary aid. She is now planning to expand to other districts of the state in the upcoming months to help more students and hopefully put a halt to the high drop-out rates.
While it is true that there exists an aura around private-English medium school education, whether Anita Nautiyal’s Green Gurukulam is an apt answer to that is not known. However, with her efforts, students in the hilly terrains of Uttarakhand are getting the exposure that perhaps they wouldn’t have received otherwise. The Logical Indian applauds Anita Nautiyal for her unique initiative in bringing an all-round educational experience to the students in Tehri Garhwal.