During a trip to India, I got a chance to visit one of the nearby villages in Haryana. I went there along with S M Sehgal Foundation staff that helped me know the area and introduced me to people there, including Mrs. Kamlesh, the block coordinator of a Good Rural Governance Program at the Sehgal Foundation. She told me about the work of Sehgal Foundation and how it has helped in empowering the people in that village.
During my visit, I spent a day at Government Middle School in Dingerhedi village, Mewat district of Haryana, and learnt about the lifestyle of people living in Dingerhedi.
After a two-hour drive of anticipation, I reached the school, which was very different from anything called school in my imagination. A pleasant, small-sized compound with few teachers was packed with about a hundred students of different grades.
Meeting teachers, students, and the guruji (principal), I got acquainted with the different advancements and developments happening in the school. For example, the school has a new water collection system that harvests rainwater. It was fitted with two hand pumps for the children to drink water. The school kitchen also had a separate water storage tank. These methods of water collection are necessary in the region as water is scarce in many parts of central and northern India.>
Next I went in the school kitchen, which is equipped to prepare a large menu of ten different food preparations, served to kids on daily basis. This mid-day meal program of Government of India has many benefits. Most importantly, it provides proper nutrition to schoolchildren, which could not have been possible otherwise. Secondly, the meal prepared in schools lure many children to attend school and remain there for filling meals.
I also went into the students’ classrooms and observed different classes taking place at same place. The first and second grades were together sitting in one open classroom. A gentle reminder that the temperature at this time was around 38 degrees Celsius! The next classroom was filled with students from third and fourth grade, and yet another with sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. Fifth grade students were enjoying a class outside.
Finally, it was the time for lunch. Before heading to eat, I met Manisha and Taufiq, eighth-grade students. They explained their daily routine at school, which was simple, straightforward, and very similar to mine. First, they go for prayers before attending classes for a few hours and then have lunch. After lunch, they resume their classes for another few hours and then the school is dismissed.
Lunch is served in an open area, under the shelter of few trees. Students sit on floor to eat. One of the cooks stand next to a bucket and help children wash their hands, while another cook serves the meal.
Before making my move to Sehgal Foundation’s Gurgaon office, I thanked the staff and they invited me to come again anytime I pleased. While leaving, I had a look at the classrooms, only to find the students playing all kinds of chaotic games, reminding me of my school.
On our long drive back to Gurgaon, I reflected on my experience. While I access technology every day at my school, these children are limited to their teachers as their only resource. Every year, I revise my inventory and buy new items, including stationery, clothing, and books; whereas these children in this school receive one bag and a few pencils every year in the form of donations. Also, I eagerly participate in a team sport every season of the year for my school, playing on the different fields — gyms, courts, and hockey rinks! The children of this school only play a few casual games after lunch. This is just a few of the many differences between my life and these children’s.
The experience of school in Dingerhedi reminded me to be grateful, and express through noble and significant service to those who are less privileged. I hope my friends and classmates will do the same.
The blog is written by Araaish Paul, an eighth-grade student, studying in Dexter School in Brookline, Massachusetts, US