School On Wheels: Elderly People Travelling Miles To Take Science To The Village Kids
Image Courtesy: lockerdome
A group of retired professionals in Maharashtra are creating awareness and highlighting the importance of practical learning in the field of science for the last twenty years. Vidnyanvahini(wealth of knowledge on wheels), a Mobile Science Laboratory(MSL) run by a group of retirees, has covered over 2,80,000 kilometres reaching out to 3 lakh students across the country.
Why MSL is so relevant to the Indian context is that so many rural regions lack access to equipment or personnel for conducting practical experiments. Mobile laboratories are economical ways of reaching out and motivating rural kids, youngsters to think science.
What makes Vidnyanvahini different?
Knowledge is free for all and is made exciting by a group of experienced, passionate and entertaining old men and women. The average age of the teachers handling the MSL is 64. Age has in no way deterred them from doing everything in their power to help students across Maharashtra. The difficulties that annoy any traveller of any age do not seem to affect these people. Under harsh weather conditions and long strenuous working hours the group of enthusiastic teachers have made 2,750 visits to schools across India in just 20 years.
Image Courtesy: Vidnyanvahini
Conception of Vidnyanvahini
Mr. and Mrs. Deshpande took up the initiative to start an MSL in Pune after watching a documentary about the same in 1994. Mr. Deshpande is a PhD holder in mathematics and his wife taught mathematics for several years in the USA. The NRI couple based in Pune were able to collect a moderate amount of money to build an MSL that was one of the first-of-its-kinds in the 80s. The MSL was put into operation in 1995 with a mission to improve access of education to rural India.
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The first few miles covered by the MSL
The mobile laboratory started working with several schools in the fringes of Pune and travelled about 150 km every day. Slowly its operating area expanded to the whole of Maharashtra while funds started pouring in. More schools started requesting for Vidnyanvahini’s assistance and the MSL was overburdened with too many invitations. As the laboratory on wheels started building a reputation for itself, the old rented vehicle used as the MSL was replaced by a new bus designed specifically to meet the requirements of a lab.
Image Courtesy: vidnyanvahini
Not just an MSL that imparts scientific knowledge
Vidnyanvahini has gone beyond the sphere of education by taking up several projects to help the rural populace. Their watershed development project in Surodi village of Ahmednagar has helped crops flourish over the past 5 years. Almost 15 bandhs(embankments) have been built to arrest and store water which has resulted in onion crop worth Rs. 3 crores this year. Aside from the practical learning provided to students, Vidnyanvahini has included sex education for middle school students, mobile library for schools and teacher training programmes in its agenda.
Image Courtesy: vidnyanvahini
The Logical Indian applauds the Vidnyanvahini for their efforts and commitment in taking the spirit of education and innovation to the corners of India. We commend the efforts of the team behind the initiative and thanking for reminding us that age is merely a number.
(To enquire about science education programmes in schools or to make donations to the trust, please contact Mr. Sharad Godse at +91 96236 76949.)