During our recent visit to India in late September, my wife Deval and I had immense pleasure visiting transformed and regular schools in Nuh and Alwar districts. We have both been involved with Sehgal Foundation work for many years, but this was our first opportunity to visit schools in person. The work done by the foundation, and the impact it has on local children and families, is immense. The local communities are benefiting from the efforts. To say the least, it was truly a life changing experience for us.
Without any prompting, the consistent message from students, teachers, administrative teams, and many community members was that because of the transformed schools:
- The number of student enrollments has gone up.
- Students are transferring from other public and even private schools to transformed schools.
- More teachers want to be transferred to these schools and want to stay longer than their assigned period of three years.
- A few schools, which have been transformed, have now expanded from grade ten up to grade twelve.
We visited a school that has a new Digital Library where students were eagerly using the computers. For many students, this was one of the first times they had the opportunity to operate a computer on their own. Providing digital literacy is preparing students for the real-world life experiences.
Because of newly raised boundary walls around the school, animals from outside are no longer coming on the campus, and students are not leaving before end of the day. The midday meal plan got a boost because of the upgraded kitchen area. The message from the communities we visited was that communities and the schools are working together, and even a minor change in the school is bringing a big impact in the community at large. Overall, the general observation on our part was that the efforts put into projects to transform schools is having a positive impact in the lives of children, and the community at large.
We also visited Government Middle School in Roja Ka Bas, a remote area of Alwar, where the school toilets were broken, there was no access to clean water, and teachers were struggling to keep students, especially the girls, in the class for the full day. During rainy days, due to leaking roofs, students are sent home. For weeks at a time, students cannot attend school because there is no dry place to sit. These schools do not have benches and students sit on floors, which are wet due to leaky roofs. Visiting this school provided us the opportunity to see the struggles of the schools firsthand.
The needs were evident! There is more work to be done.
(Contributed by Dr. and Mrs. Yogesh Shah)