Going Back to School in Uttarkashi

“A child without education is like a bird without wings” – Tibetan proverb

Volunteering at Rawada primary school

My most rewarding experience in Uttarkashi was the little time spent with the children in Rawada primary school. The opportunity arose as my hostess is principal of the school. Unfortunately, it was a limited span to be able to make any considerable difference; however, it was a great learning in the process – one which also left me in deep questions for our education system. In between, the carefree ways of the children reminded me of my own childhood.

A visual tour

Principal’s room
The open air classrooms to be enjoyed occasionally

A glimpse into their everyday school life

The everyday learning is about engaging these young minds, listen to them, cultivate dreams and give them wings to fly.

Lunch break on a sunny winter afternoon
Do you remember these childhood games 🙂
Lined up for prayer before ending the day

Creations of young minds at display

The classrooms are sans any amenities of a modern Indian school. Instead they are adorned with beautiful creations of these young minds at display.

Everyday challenges of rural education

To an outsider, these schools might look enticing calmly settled in the lap of nature – one beyond the caged walls of conventional classrooms. It indeed is ; however, there is a lot of lapse in the formal education system. Outlining a few challenges below as I experienced and was briefed upon during my short tenure.

Lack of funds for infrastructure – To begin with, the basic infrastructure needs a lot of work. There are no separate classrooms and all the students (regardless of headcount) are mostly clubbed together in two rooms irrespective of them belonging to different primary classes (1st – 5th). Being under the same roof, the major drawback is teaching different subjects to different classes at the same time distracting both students and teachers. With the limited school funds, expansion is always a challenge.

Inadequate staff – Most rural places face a major crunch of a well trained teaching staff. While the existing teachers are trying their best, the student-teacher ratio is highly imbalanced. The Rawada primary school apart from the principal herself (my hostess) had only one teaching staff. Both of them were teaching approximately 5 subjects each for every primary class. Moreover, all the administrative work was being done solely by the principal herself without any assistance.

Technology – The schools do not have electricity or power back-up to make the children learn through modern audio-visual techniques. Even though they are extremely talented, the technology gap works as a major hindrance to provide quality education to make them at par with their urban counterparts. More so in the current scenario where every family in these areas might not have access to smartphones or not well acquainted with the technicalities of online education.

Syllabus – The modules follow a standardized syllabus (as per education board) and mostly do not consider an understanding of their own region. One needs to keep in mind that these are places where even the local language has many dialects. Exposing them to a completely alien world from the very beginning effects their natural learning ability. It hampers and leads to poor foundation skill (limiting it to memorizing the syllabus). This is a huge disconnect before they are exposed to the complexities of secondary education.

There is also the impending issue of low attendance and frequent dropouts owing to lack of awareness for education. No guidance for the children at home post school hours and during the holidays adds on to the existing challenges.

Meenaji told me how she tried for a long time but with no support from the authorities, finally, she pooled in funds with her acquaintances and worked on some basic infrastructure of the school predominantly the roof for safety of the children. Occasionally, some volunteers and social organizations extend their help but it remains a temporary solution in the long run.

Can you draw a comparison with your own lives

A ray of hope

In spite of all these challenges, there is a ray of hope in the positive attitude of the children and teachers alike. The school premises is extremely clean and well maintained adorned with beautiful plantations around. Everyone follows a daily schedule of prayers, classes, lunch break, play time with basic discipline while attending to their personal chores. The eldest of them skillfully look after the younger students.

Inquisitive, energetic, extremely intelligent and ever smiling; these children can be friends with you in fraction of seconds not letting go of their harmless pranks. Being away from the harsh side effects of technology, it is heartwarming to see their ease with the surroundings. I will never forget the conversations while walking home with some of them – mostly collecting wood for fire, telling stories about their families and cattle or simply asking me a lot of questions 🙂

Some of them even took extreme pride in recognizing the state I came from and boasted about it to their friends. This was nothing but pure innocence.

Celebrations throughout year

And when they are not busy with school work, they are simply being children enjoying their carefree moments.

And as the day comes to an end, they happily strike a pose and set off – walking long distances to be home..

Ever since technology has taken over even the remaining of our lives; the classrooms have literally reached our doorsteps. But while the online education has been transitioned conveniently as the only way out to the urban masses in recent times, the outreach is far from the rural sector.

If you would like to contribute towards the children, their education as suitable and for more information on the school, please contact Mr Akhil Pant, HillDew homestay. The information provided is based on firsthand experience. For any further queries, feel free to leave a comment below or email. I will revert at the earliest.

**Some images used in the article are courtesy the school and personal clicks.

Related artcles from Uttarkashi

Uttarkashi – My Spiritual sojourn and Badahat Ka Tholu – A sneak peek into Annual Magh Mela (Uttarkashi)

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