An English school for underprivileged

Vidya School in Gurgaon provides education solely to EWS children. While English is the medium of instruction, the amount charged is a token Rs 200 per month

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | March 23, 2013


School also provides meal to its students
School also provides meal to its students

The Right to Education Act provoked many private schools to unite against the inclusion of students from economically weaker section (EWS) across the country. Not because they do not believe in education for all, but because the costs are prohibitive.

The law mandates that all private schools reserve 25% free seats for the extremely poor students in their locality. Private schools argued that these free seats will skew their models and will lead to dilution in education standards. But at Vidya School, in Gurgaon, there is no such problem.

Strictly for EWS children, the school offers English medium education for a token amount of Rs 200. Spread on five acres of land with over 70,000 square feet of covered area, the school has 450 children from nursery to class tenth and provides holistic education to less privileged children and prepares them for future.

The school’s idea dates back to 1985 when its founder, Rashmi Misra, opened a small learning centre at her home on the IIT Delhi campus to educate five young girls whose parents couldn’t afford schools. Rashmi’s husband, Ashok Mishra, was also a professor there. Later, others joined and helped Vidya expand. It was then registered as an NGO.

From the campus of IIT Delhi, it expanded and started operating as an afternoon literacy programme in early 2000.

From 2002 to 2009, Vidya operated the literacy programme through the premises of three schools – Happy School, Sriram School and Pallavan School in Gurgaon and taught children daily for three to four hours.

After the construction of the school building in DLF Gurgaon in 2009, a formal school, which follows the CBSE curriculum was started in 2010. However, the school has yet not got the board’s recognition.

More than 10,000 children from the poor communities of Delhi and Gurgaon have been educated through the literacy programme started on the IIT Delhi campus.

The school has been specially supported by a US-based couple - Mrs and Mr William Comfort. Other sponsors include GE, KPMG and Bajaj group.

The name Vidya has grown to be synonymous with stories of incredible transformation of children. It works with a mission to educate less privileged children through integrated methods. A role model school, Vidya, works to provide a holistic integrated education to children and empowers them to take back the learning to their family and community.

Through a periodically-conducted rigorous survey and selection process only those children who have monthly family income of Rs 10,000 or less and do not have house of their own are selected to attend Vidya. Children come from areas of Chakkarpur, Sikanderpur, MG Road, Golf Course road and sector 56 of Gurgaon.

Initially, Vidya provided free education but later it started charging a token amount. “We felt that people do not regard something that comes free of cost. But those who cannot afford, we do not charge them,” says Meenakshi Roy, principal of Vidya.

It has the capacity of 1000 children. Meenakshi Roy explains, “It is not aided by government and is totally fund driven. Thus it is a huge challenge to keep running going. We admit students as we receive funds.”

Today, the school has two sections of class nursery and class one and one section each of other classes up to class tenth. It has girl and boy students in the ratio of 60:40.

“Our concentration is to develop the school like any other leading English medium school for kids who cannot afford it. But the organisation runs through donation. We have to wait for funds for admitting every single child. And that’s what stops us to increase the enrollment,” says Roy.

The school is helping many like six-year-old Gulshan, who studies in class one. Gulshan’s father is an electrician and a daily wage earner, who earns around Rs 5000 a month. Gulshan’s mother Rita explains why she chose Vidya over other schools. 

“Teachers don’t pay much attention to children in government schools. In our colony, many children leave education in between and join company of wrong people.” She says this school provides better opportunities to her child. “I wanted my son to study in a private school (through 25% EWS quota under RTE) but I was told that children face a lot of discrimination. Here every child has a similar background and get quality education.” Rita is happy to see his son learn English.

Gulshan’s classroom is one of the six in the school which is equipped with digital boards. He is taught through an audio-video learning method. Two of the boards are used in primary classes and other four are used in senior classes for teaching science subjects.

Raji Nambissan, the head mistress of the school, says, “Visual method of learning is very important for children because they don’t travel much. They cannot perceive or imagine things told to them in the classroom.”

The school has computer and science labs, mathematics lab, sports training and assisted homework facilities. The medium of instruction is English in all classes.

Children get one period in the school to finish their homework with assistance from teachers. Nambissan adds, “Most of the children studying here are first generation learners and we cannot depend on parents. These children are willing to learn and we don’t want them to miss this opportunity.”

Many children studying here help their parents in their work after completing the school hours and thus do not get time to study at home. Also, most of them live in crowded one-room set and face difficulty in studying.

Raji, who used to teach at Scottish High International school in Gurgaon, joined Vidya in April 2010. She teaches Chemistry and Biology to class nine and ten. She says Vidya’s concept is different. “Many organisation run literacy programmes for children coming from economically weaker sections. But those do not lead them anywhere. This school gives them the right kind of education. Vidya educates them in a way that they see change happening.”

Last year, the first batch of Vidya got admission in a government school. Till now these children appeared through National Institute of open schooling for class tenth examination.

“Elite schools were reluctant to admit children from EWS because of cultural differences. Also, education is a business for them. But in Vidya there is nothing like that. Government should support institutions like these where children from EWS can easily learn,” says Raji.

School also provides a fruit as breakfast and nutritious meal for lunch to its students. Apart from this, books, stationery and uniforms are provided at subsidised rates.

The school building is built on land taken on lease and school runs on an annual budget of Rs 1.5 crore. It has per child expenditure of Rs 49,000 – which includes salaries of teachers, food and major portion goes to the lease.

Vidya also runs several programmes in rehabilitated communities that empower and build capacity, covering an integrated development in education, awareness, health, skill training, micro-enterprise, income generation programmes and vocational training for young girls, and youth.

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