Not long ago, close to a highway that connected the Indian capital to the neighbouring northern state of Haryana, lay a small school. It was a bare-bones structure with only 370 students and two interim teachers. Power failures were frequent and the children were, sometimes, forced to attend classes in the dark. Teachers often failed to show up, and English, a prerequisite for most white-collar jobs in India, was rarely taught. Local villagers would often herd their cattle to graze within the school compound.
This school, in Jhundpur village, had no sanitation access for girls, who were expected to take turns with the boys using single —often non-functional —toilets. As a result, many young women began dropping out of school to avoid the embarrassment of having to use the restroom in such challenging situations.
Today, the lights are on, and children —not livestock —populate the campus. Almost a dozen teachers offer instruction, conducting classes five days a week. Metal drawing boards have replaced earlier ones made of cement. A new library funded by the United Kingdom-based Pearson Foundation houses more than 1,000 books —including novels and a few Spider-Man comic books. The students learn academic subjects as well as environmental ones, such as the intricacies of rainwater harvesting.
The sanitation issue, too, has been solved with funding from the
"Now they are happy. They have their privacy, they have their education," says Satish Solanki, a district-level officer. Using the sanitation improvements as a starting point, Solanki now wants the school to expand and is working to get more funds for additional classes. This school in Jhundpur village was the first to benefit under the ’Support My School’ initiative. The project supported the school by aiding infrastructural work such as building hygienic sanitation facilities especially for girls, setting up a rain water harvesting unit, providing improved access to water, renovating the sports grounds to promote healthy and active living and improving the environment.
The programme, the
Now, children are just being themselves at school. The issues that worry policymakers are, for now, none of their concern. Today, more than 600 boys and girls attend classes, eat nutritious lunches and play games like “I Spy” behind towering neem and mahogany trees. The initiative aims to help build the future of many more children in many such schools across the country.