It’s 5 a.m.in Amjhor, a village situated in the heart of a Naxal belt in Jharkhand. A little girl and her brother wake up looking forward to another day. They brush their teeth and go for a bath the whole time humming a ‘bhajan’ they learnt in school. Carefully oiling their hair, the mother is happy to send them off to school. Dressed in white uniforms with good shoes that will last them the whole year, the brother and sister leave for school. It’s a five kilometer walk through the village and the jungle, which they take every day.
The school, ‘Sri Sri Gyan Mandir’ is an open space in the interiors of Patamda in a tribal village called Jajradih. The school has three classrooms. One is a long tin shed under which the little kids (1st to 5th) sit and study, and the other two are two big tamarind trees, under whose cool shade the big kids (6th and 7th) sit and study. The kids assemble in the middle of the space and say their morning prayers, “itni shakti humein de oh daataa, mann ka vishwas kamzor ho na,” (god, give us strength so that the faith in us doesn’t get weak). Like the duo of the little brother and sister, there are many such kids that walk down to this school from neighboring villages every morning.
Gift a Smile is our innovative school and service program has made it possible to bring contrast in the lives of these children. The ‘Gift a Smile’ program primarily aims to bring a modern and holistic education to children from the marginalized sections of the society.
Shilpa, a student since Standard VII says, “For the first time I feel that women are not beneath men – that we are equals and can do things equally well and even better.”
Bali Kiksu says, “My elder sister is a shepherd. I would have also done the same thing. However, The Art of Living volunteers approached my father and persuaded him to send me to the tribal school at Chakdah.”
The presence of the school and its activities has played a very important role in strengthening of these communities as a whole. Today, there’s a marked difference in these areas and the mindset of the students and their parents.
How does the journey look so far?
Over 51,000 students
study in our 425 free schools across 20 states
95% attendance rate
much higher than the national average
90% of our students finish school
as against a national average of 37%
100% of our students
cleared Class X exams
Sex ratio of 48 girls to 52 boys
which is significantly better than the national average
How did we work?
Our schools nurture the complete child including the body mind and spirit. Family values are strengthened and social barriers are replaced by progressive attitudes. The aim is to provide holistic, value based education thus shaping an empowered and responsible personality. Some of the highlights of these schools include:
The schools offer state syllabus (accredited by the State Govt.) thus allowing children to mainstream into the current educational context
Most children are first generation learners, paving the way for future generations of educated families
Sports and extra-curricular activities offered in the schools promote the all-round well-being of the child
Yoga, Pranayama and breathing techniques forms a part of their daily routine
Vocational and art classes provide older students with the practical and creative skills required to make a living and to help make their personal lives fuller
Encouraging community participation through various activities like health check-up camps, tree plantation drives adult education etc.
Every day is a challenge and a miracle. They love to come to school now and sometimes we have to force them to go back home!” shares Shubhangi Karvir, the principal of one of the schools.
How can you contribute?
It is our continuous endeavor to bring such transformation to newer areas. You can join hands with us to build infrastructure or to support operational costs of these schools.