From 280 enrollments to 490, Government Senior Secondary School in Village Beejwad Naruka in Alwar, Rajasthan, is proof of how positive transformations bring tremendous results. All it takes is the heart and will to bring about this change.
In 2018 when Ms Priyanka Sharma was posted as principal to the school that is 20 km from the city of Alwar, she was aghast at her first look at the crumbling infrastructure. “There hadn’t been any maintenance for a very long time. The concrete was almost completely worn off. There were no toilet arrangements, and the playground brimmed with rainwater throughout monsoon. Even when there were only 280 enrollments, attendance had been as low as ten students in a class. With so few students, no drinking water or toilets, the teaching faculty felt demotivated toward their work,” she shares.
Their plight was brought to the notice of the Sehgal Foundation team, and a school renovation project was undertaken under the Transform Lives one school at a time program.
The village community and the school principal had always wanted to educate schoolchildren, but this school was in such a dilapidated condition that they were deprived of their rightful primary education. With no proper toilets or potable drinking water, children often had to leave school in the middle of the day. Girl students especially showed little interest in attending classes due to unhygienic and unkept toilets with no doors or water. The entrance of the school welcomed its visitors with filth and unpleasant sights. With no glass panes or required insulation, students were exposed to heat, dust, and cold throughout. Withering paint and peeling layers of concrete testified to the harsh climate conditions of Rajasthan. The water tank was in highly questionable condition, covered in a wild growth of plants. The kitchen areas for cooking midday meals had densely smoked walls and no proper ventilation.
After a transformative year, students from private schools now show keen interest in attending this government school. The enrollment ratio nearly doubled in the first academic session after renovation. Renovating the infrastructure of this school created a positive chain reaction. Eyewitnesses, the villagers of the region, are proud advocates of promoting compulsory education now that the school has been renovated. They are amazed at the difference. They make frequent visits, show active involvement in activities, and attend to the needs of the School Management Committee, which was nonexistent before the school was renovated. With proper sanitation facilities and clean drinking water, participation of girl students rose significantly. Students show interest in school activities and their studies, and they motivate other children of the region attending private schools to enroll here by visiting them door to door.
Seeing the importance of rainwater harvesting structures and water purifiers, students are more sensitized to water conservation and its effective usage. They carry out frequent sanitation drives to share the knowledge they have with the villagers. Villagers too are hopeful. These changes seeded interest in the teaching staff as well. They enjoy teaching a class full of students, resulting in an improved knowledge level of students and their increased curiosity in the subjects. The overall environment of the school has been uplifted.
“A lack of basic amenities doesn’t exist anymore. With the onset of monsoon, it used to be hard for us to be in school. Now the same water is stored and used in various activities. Since Sehgal Foundation has installed rainwater harvesting, rainwater is put to use in a right way. I enjoy the greenery we have now,” says Kishan Kumar Prajapat, a class 12 student.
Along with ongoing studies, students are undertaking life skills education and digital literacy training sessions, other important elements of the Transform Lives one school at a time initiative. Students are educated on internet use and its functions. “Earlier, children used to think a computer is something which, if touched, will break. Now students are able to use it, and also do their day-to-day web-related tasks themselves. Some of our students have started preparing for competitive exams and are giving general knowledge the utmost importance. They have realized that knowledge will help them throughout life,” shares a proud teacher, Neeru Meena.
The Government Senior Secondary School in village Beejwad Naruka in Alwar, Rajasthan, is an inspiring example on how access to water, toilets, and training in an appropriate and inspired infrastructure play a vital role in building the future of young lives. The transformation of one school has transformed more than 400 lives and counting.
(Jincy Chacko is communications associate at S M Sehgal Foundation)