Samaj Pragati Sahayog
One Star Public school is situated in Pandutalab village in Bagli tehsil of Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh. The village, nestled in a remote part of the Narmada valley, is surrounded by the low hills of the Vindhyachal range. This is the most backward part of the tehsil where 90% of the people are tribal. The main tribal communities are Bhil, Bhilala, Korku, Tadvi and Barela. Most of them are small and marginal farmers with 1 to 2 hectares of land. The area is marked by seasonal distress migration to the neighbouring Malwa region in search of work.
For many years, SPS tried unsuccessfully to intervene in the sphere of education. Finally, we chanced upon a remarkable community initiative that we have supported since 2009. One Star Public School was started by Swargeeya Shri Ramlal Devda Smriti Education Society, a group of young idealistic tribal youth passionate about bringing education to poor children in our area. Here government schools usually have only one classroom and one teacher for over a hundred children of different ages. As a result, poor children in our area remain deprived of even the chance to learn how to read and write.They began this dream by pooling their own meagre funds, and with the goodwill of the local community. Located deep in a remote tribal area, this school started with just 85 children in 2007 and is attended by 250 children today, of whom 70 are girls.From kindergarten to 8th standard, these children enjoy learning Maths, English, Science and Computers right here in this remote village and will one day have the opportunity to become teachers, or doctors, or designers or engineers and not be condemned to remaining poor simply because of a lack of education.In the initial years, classes were held for the children in several rented ramshackle village huts. These huts had no windows or electricity and were poorly lit. During classes the children sat, bent over their books, on cold, damp floors. In the monsoon, most of the country baked tiles on the roof leaked. The number of students increased every year, but there was not enough space to accommodate them.In 2011, with the generous help of Caring Friends, a group of philanthropists from Mumbai, mobilised by SPS, we began construction of a new school building so that the children may have a well lit, airy, safe and happy atmosphere to study in. The building was completed in 2014 and with effect from 2014-15, the school has started functioning in this building.
There is constant guidance and help from SPS in making education for the children an enriching and enjoyable experience. This has been done through the following activities:
• Screening Educational Films: The mobile cinema of SPS periodically screens films for children. These are environmental, scientific or fun films.
• Organising a Traverse in Treated Watershed Areas: SPS has done a lot of watershed work in the area. Watershed traverses are regularly organized for the school children. Through these walks, children are exposed to the concept of watershed management and how these interventions help in soil and water conservation and in preserving the environment.
• Plantation: Every year during the monsoon children of the school undertake plantation activity with help of SPS. This is done through the formation of groups of 4 to 5 children who not only plant trees, but also take care of them till they grow. As an incentive, the school committee has announced a prize of Rs. 1051for the group that takes the best care of their trees.
• Organising Talks and Workshops: Visitors, professionals and students visiting SPS are encouraged to engage with One Star Public School in creative ways. Many formal and informal workshops have been organized to benefit the teachers and students.
• Computer Classes: At the Pandutalab field centre of the SPS, computer classes are held for the children where electricity is provided by a solar inverter.
One Star Public school is situated in Pandutalab village in Bagli tehsil of Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh. The village, nestled in a remote part of the Narmada valley, is surrounded by the low hills of the Vindhyachal range. This is the most backward part of the tehsil where 90% of the people are tribal. The main tribal communities are Bhil, Bhilala, Korku, Tadvi and Barela. Most of them are small and marginal farmers with 1 to 2 hectares of land. The area is marked by seasonal distress migration to the neighbouring Malwa region in search of work. Though most people have land, it is extremely degraded and families are not able to survive by agriculture alone. Soyabean, maize and sorghum are the main crops during the monsoon season. The area receives around 800 mm of rainfall in a normal year but droughts and years with low rainfall are quite frequent. Very few grow a second crop of wheat or chick-pea in the winter season due to lack of irrigation. 10% of the people are completely landless and depend on daily wages. The harsh terrain, where summer temperatures rise to nearly 48 degrees centigrade, makes life even more acute and difficult.
The presence of school teachers and doctors in the area is negligible. Most of the government schools and primary health centres are defunct because employees posted by the government in these departments are usually absent, they do not like to be here and take the first opportunity to seek a transfer. Government schools barely function due to absent staff, poor infrastructure and a conspicuous lack of motivation on the part of teachers. On the other hand, the few private schools present impart sub-standard education while charging a high fee, unaffordable for most poor people of the area. Those who can afford the fees remain dissatisfied with the quality of education but have no alternative.
At the same time, there is a complete tyranny of the other government employees. Even to get a simple ST/SC or an income certificate becomes impossible. Most people are forced to pay bribes to get their work done. A lot of students, who are unable to pay bribes, do not receive the mandatory scholarships, which they are entitled to.
Addressing the needs of the village people, located in the heart of the village, the school appointed several teachers from the local area, holding regular classes every day. A lot of young children were not able to attend school simply because of the long distances and the absence of regular public transport in the area. For young children to travel to school in crowded local buses is not only tiring but also dangerous. On the weekly market day, the buses are so crowded that it becomes impossible for children to get on to the bus. Apart from this, it is very expensive for the family.Today the school has a bus, which picks up nearly 100 children from 10 remote villages that lie beyond Pandutalab, again with the help of a grant from Caring Friends.
One Star Public School aims to impart holistic education to the students connecting their studies with the immediate environment around them and the world at large. The idea is to instil good values so that students become responsible citizens of the country. Apart from regular course work, emphasis is also given on the entitlements of tribal people – on the different schemes run by the government. During the monthly parent-teacher meeting, parents are also informed about these and how they could benefit from them. Most parents are illiterate and unaware of these schemes and therefore unable to avail of them.
Importance is given to encourage girl children to join the school and continue their studies. A special effort is made by the school faculty to convince village people to educate their girl children. Traditionally, most girls in the village have been kept out of school to help with domestic chores. Teachers and committee members regularly attend meetings of women’s Self Help Groups formed by SPS to talk about the importance of educating the girl child. Special attention is focused on ensuring that girl students do not drop out because of family pressure or any other reason.
The school strives to provide better education to children. This is done through constant capacity building of the teachers, through teacher training workshops and a regular monitoring and evaluation process.
The school fee is affordable for the poor. Children from very poor families are given a free education
With the hope for providing an enabling environment for holistic education for the tribal children by facilitating a modern multimedia curriculum based on scientific methodologies, the school seeks support for the following activities:
We believe that One Star Public School is a long-term investment for the future of children in the area and towards the betterment of education.