Sports day in school!!
Aarohi Bal Sansar - A Model Rural School
Aarohi Bal Sansar (ABS) was started in 1994 with just 2 teachers and 8 students, today it serves 136 children from 19 of the remotest villages of Uttarakhand. It has 20 members of staff, and all are local. The school’s vision is to provide “holistic development of personality in a joyful environment”, ensuring that every child is nurtured in a “no fear” environment with the freedom to learn. Although there is a government school in almost every village in the mountains, the quality of the education gives little chance for improved livelihood options. Rote learning and standard examinations do not give children the space to develop critical thinking skills, and lead to a high dropout rate. At ABS, our goal is to provide the right dynamic intellectual environment where students are given the opportunity to grow.
Highlights for the Year 2015
Academic Performance: We had 240 days of teaching, with focus on sports and co-curricular activities. Our students approached their class-work and projects very eagerly. We saw an improvement in the overall attendance this year. We observed a marked improvement in our students’ writing, listening, and reading skills in language learning. We saw that more than 50% of our children academically fall in the categories of excellent, very good and average in the core subjects of Hindi, English and Mathematics, despite being first generation learners and coming from extremely poor households. The overall academic achievements for the core subjects in the last academic year:
- Hindi: 79.5% of our students from class 1-8 scored above 50% marks in Hindi. Of this 25.7% scored between 71-85%, and 18% were extraordinary performers and received marks in excess of 85%.
- English: 68% of our students from class 1-8 scored above 50% in English, and of this 25% exceeded expectations (71-85% marks), and 13% obtained extraordinary scores (above 85% marks).
- Maths: 67% of our students from class 1-8 scored above 50% in Maths, of this 23% scored between 71-85% and 17% were extraordinary- scored above 85%.
Scholarships: More than 50% of our students are supported through scholarship programs. 5 out of 9 of our primary school teachers are professionally qualified through our scholarship program.
- Aarohi Bal Sansar Scholarship: The annual cost per scholar is INR 10,000/-. Last year we added 10 students and now cover a total of 58 students under this program. School fees, uniforms, books, stationery, health-checkups and nutritional supplement three times a week get covered under the scheme.
- Almora Scholarship Program: The annual cost per scholar ranges from INR 40,000- 70,000/- per year. Last year we added 2 new students and have a total of 16 students supported currently. These scholarships are offered to girls and boys who are academically high performers and are interested to continue their education beyond class 8 in reputed schools in Almora.
- Ilya Scholarship: Offered to students from Class 4- 8 with exceptional talent in music, arts, crafts, theatre, dance, sport or exhibiting special qualities like leadership, curiosity, punctuality etc. The annual scholarship amount is INR 1000/- per child and we currently have 10 children covered under this program.
- Seema Nazareth Scholarship: Girls with limited financial means, and wishing to pursue graduate- level or vocational education, are offered an annual scholarship of INR 10,000-25,000/-. Last year we sponsored a girl for a Nursery Teacher Training diploma at Jingle Bells School, Faizabad.
- Room To Read: Girls who are high academic performers and wish to pursue their education till class 12, but have limited financial means are covered under this program. School fees, uniforms, study materials and health check-ups are covered. We added 8 new students and had a total of 14. This figure has reduced from last year as the program is winding down.
Remedial teaching program: Last year we started with dedicated remedial teaching programs for Mathematics, English and Hindi. We identified the slow learners early in the academic year and provided them with focused teaching in smaller learning groups. The attention helped bring about remarkable changes in their comprehension, reading and writing abilities.
Co-curricular Activities: Our students had the opportunity to learn folk dances, play the local musical instruments (dholak, nangri and the drum). Through the year they celebrated festivals, and important occasions by participating in elocution, speech and poetry competitions. Learning traditional music and dance forms, helped instill a sense of achievement and pride among our children.
Timeless Life-skills Workshop: Atul Pant is an Education Innovator and the Founder of Timeless Lifeskills, United Kingdom. Atul has been visiting ABS and conducting workshops which are innovative and affordable learning solutions to impart life skills essential for success. He was here last December and carried out a 4 day workshop on ‘Tinkering with Electronics & Circuits – Thinking like a Scientist’. The children not only learnt the content in a fun, hands-on way but also learn inter-disciplinary skills. The underlying objective was to make students aware of how Scientists think. The students learnt the basics and tinkered with different electronic components like bulbs, motors, LEDs, buzzers and switches to understand concepts like conductors and insulators, polarity, parallel and series circuits, voltage and current. They then moved to creating Electronic Art by embedding LEDs into paper circuits using copper tape and button cells. This idea of “Electronic Art” was inspired by MIT Media Lab's project. Students used different types of material to create Electronic Art & Craft. For example, conducting dough made from ordinary flour (aata) mixed with salt was used along with play dough. Students then made simple Electronic Toys, for example the “Scribbler Bot” – a machine with a vibrating motor and sketch pens that scribble when the motor is switched on. Ultimately the workshops were all about imagination, creativity and collaboration – Timeless Lifeskills!
Health & Nutrition: We offer nutritious snacks thrice a week in the school. Along with this we organize cooking lessons and this helps children to learn about the nutritive value of traditional cuisine and a balanced diet.
Sports: Our large sports playground in the school campus, indoor multipurpose hall with a badminton court is open to more than 1,500 youth and children from 20 neighbouring schools.
- Our school came first in Athletics, Kabaddi and Kho-Kho in the local area.
- Both our boys and girls primary teams stood first in Kho-Kho at the district level. These 6 boys and 6 girls then got to play Kho-Kho at the state level.
- Our girls Kho-Kho team of 6 girls came 2nd in the state level participation.
- 2 girls (Sakshi Gutholia from village Chhatola, and Hema Bisht from village Peora) got selected at the state level for Kabbadi and received medals and certificates.
Mentors and Volunteers: Our volunteers engage with our children on a daily basis to read them short stories, and help to improve their English reading and comprehension skills. We have a team of mentors for English, Hindi and Mathematics.
Infrastructure: We added a multi-purpose hall which has indoor sports facilities and it will also serve as a space for holding indoor cultural events at the school and community level. We also have a recycled-tyre playground, library, computer centre equipped with 16 desktops, including a Dell server.
Looking Ahead & Challenges
Aarohi Bal Sansar continues to be un-aided and solely survives on private donations. We have come a long way over the past 2 decades and can boast to be the best in the region in terms of infrastructure, academics, sports, cultural and other co-curricular activities leading to the holistic development of children. Looking ahead, our goals in the medium term are:
- Achieve high academic performance, dealing with the challenges of first-generation learners through investing in capacity building of our teachers and strengthening our mentoring program.
- Reach out to resource people to develop and strengthen context based and bilingual language learning.
- Sustain teacher salaries in order to check attrition rates.
- Expand our sports facilities and strengthen the curriculum to include football, basketball, cricket and badminton training. Improve upon volleyball and mountain cycling trainings.
- We are now primed to scale up and create an Aarohi Education Outreach initiative, and share our knowledge base with other private and public schools in more remote areas.
We aspire for a partner who will share our vision and our future goals and commit to help bring holistic education and state of art sports opportunities to these parts of rural Kumaon.