Apr 6, 2018

Creating Opportunities for Better Education


Upholding the vision of holistic personality development in a joyful environment, Aarohi Bal Sansar(ABS), a middle-level school, was started in the year 1994. ABS is a vibrant learning space which is sensitively designed, nurturing children through quality education using the appropriate curriculum, creative teaching methodologies and sufficient infrastructural resources. ABS today is a model school, providing education which is sensitive to the changing aspirations of the people from the rural and remote parts of the Kumaon hills in Uttarakhand,  Northern India.  


 Until late June, the mountain children are busy collecting mountain berries and many fruits. They can be seen hanging precariously upon the tree branches, competing with monkeys for fruits. With the beginning of monsoon in July time is better spent indoors, listening to the pitter - patter of the never-ending rain. 

At Aarohi Bal Sansar this is a time for serious studying. It’s the beginning of the new academic session. The smell of new books and notebooks fills the air. The Kumaoni festival of Harela, marking the sowing period, is celebrated in the school. 

Sandeep Marmi joined us in this term as the new Principal of Aarohi Bal Sansar. Being from the region, Sandeep understands the realities of children living in these remote and inaccessible mountain slopes. His prior experience in running a school in his own village, together with his determination to bring quality education to the rural mountain population, will take ABS to new heights.

It is our constant effort at ABS to make learning more experiential. Children not only participate in various activities at ABS but also help in organising and managing them. This year we planted 100 trees, indigenous to this region, in the ABS premises. ABS students, teachers and the staff of Aarohi, spent a day together learning about different local species of trees, the best time for plantation, watering and nurturing the young saplings.  This year we would like to make systematic efforts to initiate our ‘School Farm Project’ and create a sort of a repository of local flora.

A ‘bal haat’ - a market by the children, was set up on the occasion of Children’s day, where children managed all financial transactions for the day. They bought and sold goods like books, stationery, handicrafts and food items.

Steps were taken in the direction of increasing community and parent’s participation in Education. Parent – Teacher committee was formed to manage the two school taxis. A workshop was conducted on parenting and a parent support group was formed to help parents with the challenges of parenting. 



 This year we have 167 students from 14 villages.  Thirty-one new students joined ABS in this term.  Of the total students, 85 are girls and 82 are boys.

We continue maintaining a healthy student teacher ratio of 9:1.  There are 18 teachers, with 2 teachers for the pre-primary section and 16 teachers teaching in the primary and the upper primary sections.

ABS has a beautiful combination of academics as well as co-curricular activities. Arts, Crafts, Music, sports are given equal importance along with the academics. Life skill programme further prepares them for the challenges of the modern world.  



 Total working days – 208 days

 The average attendance of staff 189 Days

Average attendance (%) of students - Girls 86.80%, Boys 92.66%



Academic Performance of students in classes 1 to 5 in Half Yearly Assessment

Students in classes 1 to 5 are performing well in languages (English and Hindi), however, the performance in mathematics is not very encouraging. 52% of students from classes 3 to 5 scored above 80% (A Grade) in Hindi, with 46% scoring above 80% in English. In mathematics, however, only 30% of the students scored above 80%.  Majority of the students in these classes fall in grades B and C ( between 50% to 79% ), which is average to good performance.

 Academic performance of students in classes 6 to 8 in Half Yearly Exams

On an average, 15% students have scored above 80% in Hindi, English, Mathematics or Science in classes 6 to 8. While the majority of the students fall in B and C grades (50% to 79%), the number of those performing below 50% of marks in these classes is also considerably high. 

43% of the students have scored less than 50% of marks in English and almost 35% of the students have scored less than 50% in Maths and Science. The students seem to be performing better in Hindi with only 8% students scoring less than 50% in this subject. English is the subject where students in these classes are performing poorly, followed by Mathematics.

While systematic efforts are being made to reduce the variance between high performing and low performing students, bridging this gap in the higher classes has always remained a constant challenge.  The final exam results will help us know how far we have been successful in bridging this gap.



Bal Haat – A new beginning

Making learning experiential and skill based, ‘Bal Haat’, or a ‘market by the children’ was organised on ‘Children’s Day’ on November 14, 2017.The aim was to introduce students to the concepts of trading, marketing and financial transactions thereby enhancing their numeracy, analytical and communication skills.  The children set up stalls, selling stationery, handmade greeting cards, toys and homemade food. Various fun games were also organised by the children. All accounts and other transactions for the day were independently managed by the children, with the teachers to guide as and where required.

Children efficiently conducted various games which included hitting the glass, Chocolate Wheel and pinning the donkey’s tail. From deciding the goods to be displayed in the stalls to fixing the selling price, children managed almost all aspects of with little support from their teachers as and where required.

It was a day full of fun and frolic for students and teachers of ABS; parents and the staff of Aarohi. Local residents from the area also participated in the ‘funfair’ by supporting children in cooking and baking.  

International Children’s Film Festival, Hyderabad

Five of our ABS students attended the International Children’s Film Festival, organized by the Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI), in Hyderabad, from November 5th to 16th. This provided a unique opportunity to the students of ABS to watch some of the finest films from across the world. They had the opportunity to meet and interact with film directors, actors and many other children from different parts of India.  Harshita Sunal from class VII of ABS was part of the prestigious child jury, judging the films for awards.

This was for the first time that the students travelled by train, moving through different states to reach their destination. They described how the colour of soil changed from state to state, appreciating the diversity of our country.  In Hyderabad, they visited the Salarjung Museum, Char Minar and other places of historical significance. An enriching experience, this visit exposed children to the art that cinema is.

Tree Plantation Drive 

A hundred saplings of indigenous varieties of trees were planted this monsoon on the school premises. The children, teachers and the staff of Aarohi participated enthusiastically in the drive.  This is the beginning of school forestry initiative and the school farm project.

Mini Sports Day

Mini sports day is organised specially for the tiny tots of ABS - for students in kindergarten up to class 2. This year the teachers were highly creative with their choices of games. Connected with learning goals, the games displayed the cognitive and motor skills acquired by the children in these classes. The games challenged children to colour coordinate, count, mix & match and fine balance.

Annual Sports Day

Aarohi Bal Sansar celebrated its 8th Annual Sports day on 29th December. The fantastic turnout of the parents, people from the village and the beautiful winter day boosted the morale of our students.

The students were in the complete spirit of the occasion as they administered the oath of the day. The event began with an impressive march past followed by a series of races, Kho-Kho and Kabbadi.

Once the races began, the air was filled with cheering and encouragement for the young athletes. The event ended with a game of tug of war between ex-students of Aarohi Bal Sansar and teachers.

Days of training and efforts by the students and teachers made this Sports day a delightful one!



Workshop on parenting

On the request of parents, half a day workshop was conducted on parenting issues.  The workshop allowed parents and teachers to understand the concerns they have in raising a  child. Parents shared their many fears, dilemmas and confusions they confront each day raising their children. It was agreed by all to set up a parents support group which would meet once every month to share their concerns and find solutions together with other parents. A professional counsellor, Vandita Dubey, has offered to counsel parents through the process of parenting.

Formation of school bus management committee

A school bus management committee was formed in this term to manage the two school taxies. The aim was to increase parent’s participation in managing some of the core non-academic functions of the school. The parents have taken great interest, taking over all aspects of managing the school taxis.


In this term, we had to bid farewell to three of our great teachers.

Monica Drego resigned from her position of Education Director in August 2017, after making an immense contribution towards the teaching and learning methods at ABS.

Pradeep Rastogi, our dynamic and much-loved vice principal who also taught Mathematics, left in August 2017, and so did Hema, Science teacher.

We were joined by Sandeep Marmi, as Principal – ABS, in October 2017.

Dipti joined in as Maths and Science teacher for classes 6 to 8. She is from a village nearby and has already become one of the favourite teachers of the children at ABS.


While continuous inputs go into innovating teaching and learning methodologies to bridge the learning and comprehension gaps specific to children from the region, it is still a challenge to make learning outcomes an explicit goal of primary education, adjusting the vast variation in learning levels and providing additional instructional resources in early schooling years.  

We do not have enough teachers to teach the core maths and science subjects and that shows in poor student performance in these subjects.

Commuting to school is yet another concern. Students walk for half an hour to one hour to reach ABS. This is physically draining, affecting their performance in school. While we have tried to arrange for private taxis, managed by the parent’s committee, a school bus as per the Right to Education norms will go a long way in making education at ABS more accessible to children from further off villages.

Investing in teacher resource is extremely important to maintain the quality of education, reduce attrition and motivating teachers. Our teachers are as qualified as any government teacher and far more motivated to teach. Their salaries, however, are less than half of what the government teachers who are mostly absent from duty, draw. Sourcing institutional funding for salaries is getting difficult by the day. This year we would like to encourage individual donors to adopt one ABS teacher as a patron and mentor, at least for a year.




Jun 26, 2017

Support a Rural School in the Himalayas

Morning Prayer
Morning Prayer



In 1994 when Aarohi began contemplating its interventions in the field of education, the challenges were many. From inaccessibility, considering a limited number of government schools to which children trekked through mountains covering long distances, to poor enrollment in schools especially of girls, high rate of school dropouts, corporal punishment and the dismal state of infrastructure, the sector abounded with difficulties. What one witnessed amongst the students from these mountain villages was a lack of confidence and poor self-esteem.

In that year’s management committee meeting, it was decided to initiate the education programme with the objective to demonstrate improving the educational environment in rural remote areas of Nainital district through Aarohi facilitated education programme in Ramgarh block.

The aim was to set up a model school that demonstrated the smooth transition from pre-primary to primary education. The challenge was to demonstrate a workable model to reach out to special need children and dropouts in the area and reintegrate them in the mainstream system. The project was conceived after four years of grassroots experience of working in the area. Through an interaction with over 40 villages, then, Aarohi had learned about the needs and aspirations of people. 

The dream was to create a space where the children could learn in an environment which would be, as Oona, one of the founders of Aarohi, had scribbled in her diary, “free from fear, fostering curiosity”.

Aarohi Bal Sansar (ABS) is that dream.

Working towards rural development, Aarohi views education as a social equaliser, bringing dignity to human life. Access to quality education, for Aarohi, is a means to attain sustainable development and creating an inclusive,          diverse and a compassionate society.  The education programme is an extension of Aarohi’s larger vision of creating a more equitable society, by creating development opportunities for Himalayan communities through integrated development.

Aarohi’s Education Programme strives to provide ‘holistic development of personality in a joyful environment’, ensuring every child is nurtured in an environment, which is safe, free, inclusive, empathetic and dynamic. This year we initiated the Education Outreach Programme, to provide crucial mentorship and guidance to Anganwadis (Early Childhood Education Centres) and the local community schools in the state. Through this programme we hope to replicate further, the teaching methodologies evolved from 23 years of our experience of running a school in these parts of the mountains.



This year, Aarohi Bal Sansar(ABS), a middle-level school, managed by Aarohi, a not-for –profit organisation working towards integrated development in the rural Kumaon hills in the Central Himalayan Region of Uttarakhand, India,  completes 23 years of its presence in the region.

January to June is the period leading to the end of the academic session. The entire month of January is a winter vacation, during which children wait in anticipation of snowfall and celebrate with their families the important festival “Ghugutiya”, a festival marking the beginning of the summer solstice.

From February, with the onset of the spring, school begins, the final session of the academic year. It is the time for rigorous studies; preparing for the final exams.

Teacher’s Appraisals are also done in the same period.

This March, ‘Sir’ Taradutta Masa, retired as the principal, ABS, after serving the school for 17 years. The students organised a beautiful farewell programme for him. He nurtured the school for almost two decades.

Monica Shah Drego, joined us as the  Education Director from 1st February 2017 and we are all looking forward to some wonderful interventions in the field of education. With thirty long years of experience in the field of Education, Monica Shah, will certainly take ABS to new heights.

We believe, the children learn from their everyday interactions with their environment. Their long walk from home to Aarohi and back also contributes to their education. While most of the students still walk to ‘their school’ ABS, the two taxis we introduced this year has made ABS more accessible to students from many remote villages.

This year we had 25 new admissions from 5 villages, taking the total number of students to 163. We have recruited one new nursery teacher, Renu Kabadwal, who recently completed her nursery teacher’s training programme.


Aarohi Bal Sansar (ABS)

Upholding the vision of holistic personality development in a joyful environment, Aarohi Bal Sansar (ABS), a middle-level school, was started in the year 1994. ABS is a vibrant learning space which is sensitively designed, nurturing children through quality education using the appropriate curriculum, creative teaching methodologies and sufficient infrastructural resources. ABS today is a model public school, providing education which is sensitive to the changing aspirations of the people from these parts.

A strong cadre of competent, empathetic and inspired teachers spearhead the innovative and creative learning process. ABS has 163 students and 22 teachers, learning and growing together.


Student Performance

Considering the students studying at ABS belong to the first generation learners, the major goal of assessment and evaluation is to enable team members to use data to create a profile of a student's strengths and needs.

Children are accessed for cognitive development -  the ability to learn new information, speech, understanding of written material;  emotional and social development; scientific approach and curiosity and physical development.

 A combination of oral and written assessments are done to gauge the child’s improvement on language and comprehension skills. Various co-curricular activities like science workshops; art and crafts workshops; elocution performances are organised to enhance and also to gauge child’s emotional and cognitive development.

 Sports and extracurricular activities are systematically organised to instil a sense of teamwork, cooperation and camaraderie. Participation and performance of children in these activities reflect upon their social skills apart from physical development.

We also conduct annual and half yearly written and oral exams to access academic performance.

This year 15 students passed out from ABS, completing primary education up to class 8. This year’s evaluation of academic performance shows high performance of our students from classes 1 to 5 in the subjects Hindi, English and Maths. In classes 6 to 8 however, the struggle continues to improve the academic performance.

With age, the workload of the children at home increases, making it difficult for them concentrate on studies. Considerable students, in these classes, join ABS after finishing their pre-primary schooling in the government schools, which are closer home. With a weak foundation, it becomes difficult for them to cope up with the syllabus in the higher classes. 

The major challenges include the gaps in comprehension and correlation. Considerable inputs have gone into innovating teaching and learning methodologies to bridge the learning and comprehension gaps, specific to the children from the region, but there are miles go before we can say we have bridged the gap.  


Workshops for Children

 Butterfly Workshop, which was conducted by Bheemtaal Foundation, in April, was attended by all the students from grade I to VIII. A short film, explaining the metamorphosis was screened. The children learnt to make butterflies using origami techniques. Cardboard workshop was held in May for students from grade 6 to 8. They were taught to make different articles using cardboard. Akka- Bakka group conducted an art workshop in May. Students were introduced to colours and their creative application.

‘Timeless Life skills’, workshops to expose students to different modes of thinking, were conducted by Atul Pant. Students learnt to construct scientific experiments, varying only one factor at a time to ascertain causation and not just correlation.  In ‘Thinking Like an Engineer’ workshops, students were challenged to construct bridges using craft sticks, which were then tested for their load-bearing capacity, introducing to them to the concept of hydraulics.

Teacher’s Training and Capacity Building

As part of annual exposure visit, our teacher visited St.Stephen’s School, Ajmer.  They attended one-on-one workshops; sharing their teaching experience with the teachers from St.Stephen’s school.  This was an excellent opportunity for them to observe the teaching methodologies followed at St.Stephen’s School. They saw the dessert, which many of them had not seen before. Being from the highlands of Himalayas, this was an enriching exposure for our teachers.

 Maths workshop was conducted for the Maths teachers at ABS. They learnt creative and innovative teaching methodologies to teach a difficult subject like Maths, to children from rural areas.

Chandrkala Bisht, our teacher teaching life skills was invited by Astitva Trust in Mumbai, to conduct a workshop on Kumaoni folk dance and music. This boosted her confidence and enhanced her capacity in conducting workshops for large groups.


Sports and Co- Curricular Activities

ABS playground is the pride of its students. Children are provided ample opportunities to groom their talents in sports. Children in the mountains exude an innate ability in sport and the outdoor, hence it has been a continuous endeavour of the school to nurture this potential and groom them for Block and State-level competitions. ABS has a full-time sports teacher who trains students in various games like Kabaddi, Kho Kho and athletics. Volunteers also join in to teach football, volleyball and cycling.

This year ABS students participated in a Kabaddi, Kho Kho and Athletics competition held at the block level. They secured first place at the primary and Junior level. At the Block level, students participated in Kabaddi and Kho kho, standing first in all the games.  At the district level, Paras Dauthar and  Harshit Bisht and Vivek Kumar of class 5, were selected for Kho Kho.  Preeti Thapa stood first in long jump and second in 400 meter race.  She has been selected for the State-level competition.  Ishika Rani and Preeti Thapa were also selected for Kabaddi at the State level. Neha Negi of class 7, and Shobha Arya and Kalpana Bisht of class 8 were selected for State level. Sakshi Arya of class 6 was selected for Kho Kho. At Junior level, boys stood second in Kabaddi, where Abhishek Bisht and Yogesh Bisht were selected for the State level competition.

Class 4,5, 6, 7 and 8 students participated in a State level drawing competition held by the Education Department.The topic was ‘Energy Conservation’.  To promote greater awareness of their cultural heritage, an ‘Aipan’ drawing competition  was held at ABS for the students of class 6 and 8. Children were explained the art form, its motifs and significance of each of the motif. A drawing competition on the topics energy conservation, save environment and clean India, was held on the occasion of Children’s Day, at ABS.

Computer class in progress
Computer class in progress
Butterfly workshop
Butterfly workshop
Annual Sports Day
Annual Sports Day
Feb 21, 2017

Education Initiative in the Himalayas

Jyoti, a student from Khati Primary School
Jyoti, a student from Khati Primary School

With the end of monsoons in July, the work in Aarohi takes a different dimension. The school gears up for its winter session. With the days getting shorter and the winters setting in, students enjoy their outdoor classes, basking in the warm mountain sunshine. Most of the staff is seen sitting with their laptops in the open with hot cups of chai. Despite the biting cold, shorter days and cold office premises, Aarohi is a buzz of activities, keeping the spirit of the mountains alive.  July to December is a time for Annual Himalayan Haat, School sports day, Annual sports events, regular medical camps and many festivals.

Aarohi BalSansar (ABS) is a Hindi medium school from Kindergarten till Class 8. It is part of the development effort of Aarohi, a Society for rural development based in the village of Satoli in Nainital District of Uttarakhand. Started in 1994, ABS was an expression of community need.

We presently have 157 students (78 girls and 79 boys).  The school has come a long way over the past 2 decades and we try our best to strike the right balance between academics, sports, cultural and co-curricular activities leading to the 'holistic development of children in a joyful learning environment'!

1.1Academic Performance in the Half Yearly Examinations

The school conducts semi-annual examinations.  This analysis is for the school’s half yearly examinations for the subjects Hindi, English, and Mathematics.

  •  In Hindi, 48% of students scored above 80% marks (Grade A).  28% of the students scored between 65-79% (Grade B).  22% scored in the range of 50-64% (Grade C), and 2% scored between 35-49% marks and were rated as Grade D.
  • In English, only 28% of students scored above 80% (Grade A), and 34% scored between 65-79% marks (Grade B); there were 38% who scored between 50-64% marks (Grade C).
  • In Mathematics, 48% scored above 80% marks (Grade A), and 24% of the students scored in the range of 65-79% (Grade B); 4% students scored a between 35 to 49% marks (Grade D), and 4% scored a Grade E (less than 34% marks).
  • In Hindi, 19% of students scored above 80% marks (Grade A).  23% of the students scored between 65-79% (Grade B).  33% scored in the range of 50-64% (Grade C), and 23% scored between 35-49% marks and were rated as Grade D.  There were 2% of students who scored less than 34% marks (Grade E).
  • In English, only 7% of students scored above 80% (Grade A), and 19% scored between 65-79% marks (Grade B); there were 21% who scored between 50-64% marks (Grade C), 48% of the students scored between 35-49% (Grade D), and 5% scored less than 34% marks (Grade E).
  • In Mathematics, 14% scored above 80% marks (Grade A), and 35% of the students scored in the range of 65-79% (Grade B); 37% students scored a between 50-64% (Grade C), and 14% were in the range of 35-49% marks (Grade D).


2.2.   Scholarship Update

The Bal Sansar Scholarship Program was started in 2008-09 with just ten students. The scholarship program covers the tuition fees, books, school uniform, and stationery expenses for students.  We now have 59 students supported under this program. All these 59 students are currently supported by AarohiSchweiz.There are presently 20 students from class 8 till intermediate who are supported through Aarohi’sAlmora scholarship program – tuition fees of up to 50% are covered for education in a residential school in the nearby town of Almora.


2.3.        Science Workshops

It was an engaging experience for the school children when the Pratham Science team came over to conduct workshops at ABS.   The Alliance for Science (AFS) program team from Pratham works extensively with children across rural India on direct experience-based science learning. They design multiple resources activities to deepen the learning impact for children and the community. The workshops were held in August for classes 6, 7 and 8.  The topics covered were the Skeletal System, Human Anatomy and Internal Organs, and Astronomy.  The children had a lot of fun learning about the skeletal system and the organs of the body.The inquisitive and curious nature of the students and careful arrangements made the event a huge success!


2.4.        Sports

In October, 46 of our students participated in the village games and were selected to play at the Block and District level. At the district level, the girls’ team won the 1st prize for Kabaddi, and boys’ team won the 2nd prize for Kho-Kho. Of these 10 students were selected to play at the State level games.


2.3.        Education Outreach Program

October 1, 2016, Aarohi launched its education outreach initiative with an aim to consolidate our effort of holistic education of children of marginalized mountain communities. Aarohi has partnered with 4 private schools and 9 Government kindergarten schools in the districts of Nainital, Almora and Bageshwar.  This projects aims to provide better preparation of children for primary school education by providing them with a fruitful pre-school education.  Aarohi will provide these schools with learning-teaching aids and invest in capacity building workshops for the teachers to help bring learning levels to acceptable standards. The aim of the project is to build interest, capability and confidence in subjects like Mathematics, Languages and Life-skills through regular teaching activities and subject specific camps for accelerated learning.


 2.3.        Case Study

MukeshBisht, alumnus from ABS, was the first batch of the Almora Scholarship

Program. He graduated in 2015 from Koormanchal Academy, Almora. The transition from a Hindi medium to an English medium school was a difficult journey, but Mukesh shared that the exposure helped him to think creatively. Mukesh has always had a desire to live with a higher purpose and goal, and so we at Aarohi, were really very excited when we heard that he cleared the defense services exams, and was selected to join the Indian Navy. On August 15 last year, India’s Independence day, Mukesh started his training as a sailor with the ship INS Chilka in Vizag.  It was indeed a proud moment for Aarohi!





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