Apart from their regular classes, 580 girls of Narayan Nagar Kanya School in Kotharia Solvent area of Rajkot, an under-developed locality dominated by migrant labourers, are getting trained in various arts and crafts and will soon get a smart classroom.
Thanks to Gujarat IAS Officers’ Wives’ Association (GIASOWA), which has opened learning centres in three government primary schools, while adopting another for providing students skill training.
Apart from Narayan Nagar Kanya School in Kotharia, GIASOWA — the association of the wives of around 200 IAS officers — has set up special centres in primary schools in Borij village near Gandhinagar and Khodiyar village near Ahmedabad city. These centres have been named GIASOWA Learning Centres, which teaches diverse subjects and co-curricular activities, including art, music, story-telling and reading, stitching, embroidery, personality development and etiquette, nutrition and personal hygiene, health as well as games.
Apart from these centres, Rajkot district Collector Rahul Gupta’s wife Anuja has independently adopted Anandpar Primary School No.2 in Anandpar village and has upgraded its infrastructure, besides adding new teaching-learning modules by engaging non-government organisations.
The association inaugurated its first centre in Borji village in September last year. GIASOWA president Meena Singh says they wanted to share their knowledge with the underprivileged and therefore, formalised its engagement with the school. “We have been carrying out philanthropic activities for women and children for the last 17 years,” she said.
Singh, wife of Chief Secretary J N Singh, adds the GIASOWA members had adopted the Borij school three years ago. But the idea to set up the centre to make education comprehensive took shape only last year.
“We first assessed the needs of the school, purchased books and other aids and also helped it avail the benefit of Building as Learning Aid (BaLA) under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. We arranged for a computer, projector and other aids under the BaLA project. Wall paintings were also done,” she says.
But, she adds, that upgrading infrastructure and providing more teaching-learning material is not the sole objective. “The uniqueness is that the wives of IAS officers and their children go there and teach so that the children get holistic education beyond curriculum, just like private schools,” says the GIASOWA president.
Singh further says GIASOWA has decided to expand its activities, taking a cue from Anjali Rupani, wife of the Chief Minister. “Rupani ma’am has been quite a motivation for us. We had invited her to visit the special centre in Borij,” she said, adding wives of district officers were free to take similar initiatives.
Anjali, who also runs Pujit Rupani Memorial Trust, along with her husband Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, for education of the underprivileged children and welfare of women, says, “They (GIASOWA) have been doing some activities in Borij. I suggested that they can adopt the school. They responded and set up the centre. At the ceremony to inaugurate the special centre there, I opined that the model can be replicated in every district,” Anjali tells The Indian Express.
“Unlike our times when we were taught stitching,embroidery, music, drawing etc, not every school is teaching these things these days. The initiative will also give a platform to women and NGOs who want to join hands with the government in this field. They are trying to contribute to the existing system,” she adds.
The centre in Kothriya school was inaugurated by Minister of State for Education Vibhavari Dave on February 26. Sima Pani, wife of Rajkot Municipal Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani, is the moving force behind it. “I started working on the school in mid-December last year. Anjaliben and Meena Singh motivated me to select Kotharia, an under-developed area. Girls of labourers are studying there. The ultimate goal is to increase their level of confidence,” says Pani.
Pani adds she has convinced an NGO to set up a smart classroom. “Though languages is a barrier for me, I will teach students science. I can teach them by conversing in Hindi,” Pani, who teaches chemistry at a private university in the city, says.
On March 8, GIASOWA inaugurated its third centre in Khodiyar. Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra’s wife Suman and Ahmedabad district Collector’s wife Aarti have taken the lead there.
Anuja, meanwhile, has developed a public-private-partnership model to run such a centre. With the help of the Rajkot district administration and panchayat, she has upgraded the infrastructure of Anandpar school, which she adopted in September last year. Now it has a landscape garden, sports equipment etc.
Community toilets are also being built. She has facilitated memoranda of understanding between an NGO and the district panchayat, which controls the school, for running a smart class having 30 laptops, as well as private organisations and individuals to teach dance, self defence, handicraft, carpentry etc. Similarly, the district administration has helped set up sprinkler and drip irrigation system in the garden. “The idea is to first teach students what they see around themselves. For example, we will teach children basics of irrigation systems, hydroponics, greenhouse etc with the help of agricultural scientists and farmers,” Gupta, who also teaches at a private university in Rajkot, says.
Gupta, who is from Maharashtra, also took out student rallies to raise awareness about cleanliness. She has picked up Gujarati and is at ease with students. “We must do something to stop rural poor from becoming urban poor. Therefore, we will have to go to villages and catch children young, provide them best education. I want the school to become the nerve-centre of the village,” she says.
Anandpar school principal Lata Rathod says the school has gained a lot after 34-year-old Gupta adopted it. “We teachers feel motivated as now someone is taking direct note of our work and our efforts. We used to get Rs 27,000 maintenance grant from government annually and infrastructure upgrade wouldn’t have been possible with that amount. Attendance at parent meetings has also improved significantly due to the buzz created in the village since Gupta adopted our school,” says Rathod.
Anuja Gupta’s collector husband also visits the school occasionally.
“It also helps sarpanch of the village if someone knows him or her in the office of collector or district development officer,” says Jagdish Shiyar, husband of Anandpar village sarpanch Madhu Shiyar.
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