In the last decade, around 800 Marathi medium schools have been permanently shut in the city as both the number of students and funds dwindled. However, a Marathi medium school and several non-profit organisations in the city have come together to prevent closure of Marathi schools by creating awareness and crowd funding.
Unlike many other schools which closed down, D S High School in Sion, along with Milaap — an online crowd funding platform — are collecting funds to prevent them from closing down. The school has formed its own four-member sales and marketing team named ‘messiah’. The team almost daily approaches the school alumni, corporate companies and small and medium enterprises (SME) bringing them together to garner support to keep the school going.
Telecallers have been trained to explain the project and convince them to donate and contribute in order to help underprivileged children. The donations can be from Rs 500 to Rs 1 lakh.
According to the Marathi schools and activists, parents these days feel only English medium or a school with ‘International’ on its banner can give their children a better future. Hence, aiming to rescue the Marathi-medium schools, DS High School, along with a few other local Marathi schools, teamed up with Marathi Abhyas Kendra, a centre to promote Marathi. They teamed up to fight what they allege is the state government’s “discriminatory policy” against these schools. They organise special sessions for parents of students of Marathi medium schools. The alumni who passed from Marathi medium schools are invited to motivate the parents and create awareness through these special sessions.
“Since the Right to Education Act, 2009 stipulates that schools cannot run without approvals, the department is gradually pushing them to shut down. With no aid or approval from the state government, the schools don’t have the means to continue running. Teachers and principals are shelling out money from their own pockets to keep their schools functioning. They cannot sustain this for too long. Hence, our aim is to encourage parents to continue with Marathi medium schools, said Deepak Pawar, convenor of Marathi Abhyas Kendra.
“In 2003-04, the government stopped giving aid to Marathi medium schools. While salary grants were given, non-salary grants were discontinued. Four years ago, number of students in our school started dropping too and we had to do something to reverse this trend. The only way was to bring our school on par or even better than the English medium schools,” said Rajendra Pradhan, president of DS High School, Sion. The 80-year-old school has more than 3,500 students in their Marathi medium section.
The school has initiated project Shivdhanushya, as a part of which the school introduced 12 activities which include e-learning in every class, a computer lab with the facility of one computer for one student, advanced sports and fitness training and most importantly spoken English training for both students and teachers.