By Vishnu Khedkar
Gram panchayats, teachers, and communities are talking about the upper primary school of Wakod, situated 12 kms from block headquarters Phulambri and about 38 kms from the district headquarters, Aurangabad (population 1,648). The school was transformed in 2021. The School Development Committee (SDC), school students, and teachers are ecstatic about having a better learning environment for the 218 students of the school.
The school headmaster, Sadashiv Badak, says, “The transformation of the school is the talking point among teachers and communities in the block as they have not seen such a government school in the district. Moreover, the block education officer has made it compulsory for all headmasters in the block to visit our school. All teachers are visiting our school and appreciating the work done. Digital literacy classes are found very useful for the students.”
Pooja Lahane, a class VIII student who attends digital literacy class, says, “I had only heard about computers but never saw or operated a computer in my life. After three months of the class, I can use a computer for data entry, painting, typing, and preparing presentations, etc. I am very happy that now I know how to operate a computer and can netsurf to purchase things online.”
The need for school transformation had come up during the discussions at a Village Leadership School (VLS) meeting organized by S M Sehgal Foundation in 2018. The VLS is comprised of key community leaders of the village with representation from the gram panchayat, self-help groups, and communities. This group of twenty community leaders gathered every month to discuss development issues of the village. Development of the school was featured regularly in the VLS discussions. VLS members highlighted the bad conditions in the school. They mentioned that they approached the Zila Parisad (district council) many times for repairs, but they did not materialize. The school premises had only two toilets, no arrangements for water, no school grounds, a damaged boundary wall, and no stage for cultural programs or prayers. S M Sehgal Foundation supported the improvements to the school under its Transform lives one school at a time program in 2020.
Through the program, major repairs were done to five classrooms and the damaged roof was fixed. Wall painting and colorings on the entire school blocks were done based on the BaLA concept (buildings as learning aids). An aesthetic school gate was constructed, the boundary wall was repaired, both toilet blocks were repaired, a drinking water tank was built, a stage was constructed for flag hoisting and cultural programs, ornamental plants were planted, school grounds were leveled, a recharge system was installed, and new flooring was done. The porch was covered to create additional room for a science lab. A digital system was installed for students along with the provision of learning materials. Twenty-seven students of grade eight completed a three-month program on digital learning. This complete transformation of the school premises created a positive effect on the students and their enthusiasm.
A school development committee (SDC) was formed, and capacity building was done through monthly meetings and specialized training programs. The transformation work was completed under the supervision of the SDC. The SDC collected contributions of about three lacs, maintained in a separate bank account for future repairs and maintenance.
Many other schools in the area now aspire for similar facilities for their children in government schools.
Mr. Waman Tathe, SDC chairman, says, “We can’t say how long it would have taken for the government to do all this work for our school. We are thankful to the S M Sehgal Foundation for transforming our school, which now looks very beautiful. This will indeed bring many positive changes in the lives of our schoolchildren”
(Vishnu Khedkar is program lead, Aurangabad with S M Sehgal Foundation)