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Swarachna School Making Headlines!
The article, entitled "School of Thought", profiles Milaan and Foundation for Freedom's initiative at Swarchana School in Uttar Pradesh:
School of thought
LACK OF EDUCATION FACILITIES IN RURAL INDIA INSPIRED A FEW COLLEGE GRADUATES TO START A SCHOOL IN SITAPUR, UTTAR PRADESH. ABHISHEK GHOSH REPORTS
ALMOST two years ago, a bunch of college graduates from Delhi University started a school in Sitapur village in Uttar Pradesh. From humble beginnings 10 children, one teacher in a tent Swarachna today has 183 students with nine teaching staff and two rooms. The school aims at teaching rural children in Sitapur with local graduates and undergraduates as teachers.
The endeavour is the brainchild of Dhirendra Pratap Singh, a 22-year-old mathematics honours graduate from Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College in Delhi University. After completing my graduation, I had gone to Uttarakhand to work on a project by the Himalayan Gram Vikas Samiti. I was appalled to see the poverty and squalor that afflicts rural India. It was then that I decided that I wanted to work for children and the youth in rural India, the idea of starting a school evolved over a period of time. I thought that the only way to improve their condition was to empower them through education, he says.
Singh then went to his ancestral village in Sitapur to see if he can engage with the children there. I went and did research in the Sitapur district and found out that it didnt have a school in a 12 km radius. So, along with a few friends in Delhi and Lucknow, we decided to set up a makeshift school, he says.
The next step was getting finances in place. Some 25 friends of mine contributed Rs 500 each and we set off to Sitapur. There we spoke to the panchayat and asked for their permission to start a school. It was not very difficult to convince them and they helped us in finding a place to set up the school, he says. Convincing his parents was not difficult initially as they thought Singh was doing it as a hobby. But once they realised that I was planning to take it up full-time, there was some resistance. However, my dedication has convinced them and now they let me be, he says.
Once he started, there was need for more. Sitapur has a population of 7,500 out of which 3,000 are children. We knew we had a long way to go. For that we needed money, he says. His ingenuity was put to good use while searching for financers. We started out with two schemes: finance a child and build a school brick by brick. For the former we were asked for Rs 4,000 a year which would finance the infrastructural and educational needs of a single child. And for the second one we were selling a brick (needed to build the school) for Rs 10. In a period of just 20 days we raised a sum of two lakh rupees, he says.
The structure was constructed in April 2008. We had 48 children and four teachers then. The teachers were graduates and undergraduates from in and around Sitapur. We had developed a capacity teacher training programme in consultation with NGO Pratham and Study Hall in Lucknow to train them to teach, he states.
Singh, who is based in Delhi and is busy raising funds for the school, goes to Sitapur every 15 days for four days. Next, we are planning to scale up and increase the number of classrooms, pay the teachers better and accommodate more children. We want to maintain a healthy student teacher ratio. We want to educate more children. It is heart rending to turn back parents who want to send their children to school, he concludes.