Ashraya Neelbagh School, celebrated its Founder's Day, on August 13th with Mr. Ashok Hattangady, one of the main patrons of Ashraya, being the Chief Guest. Various sports events were held in which the children participated and did very well, which was followed by a beautiful cultural show with folk dance, music and drama.
On the Annual Day, we got an opportunity to interact with the parents and find out about what they think about Neelbagh School and how it is meeting the needs of the deserving children in the villages. Here are some of their responses-
Madappa, a construction worker, earns a meager salary of 2100 per month. His son Marilinga is in 8th standard and daughter Devamma is in 6th standard, studying at Ashraya Neelbagh School. He says - ‘First and foremost our children are given hostels to stay, which is a blessing. Being a Construction worker, I stay in Bangalore I cannot travel up and down every day, but Neelbagh School has made us free from the ‘tension’ (I think he means ‘stress’) by providing shelter to our children. ‘They are looked after very well by the affectionate teachers and kind staff. Even if our children are not well, we have no reason to worry, there is hospital care that is being given to them in our absence. AshrayaNeelbagh School not only gives education and food, but it’s just like a “sweet home” for my children. Children are allowed to play games and participate in other activities, which is good for them’, he says.
When he was asked, what he thought was different at Ashraya-Neelbagh School from other schools? He promptly responded, ‘Neelbagh School gives the children good medical attention when they are sick whereas other private schools are not doing so. And lot of private schools do not provide hostels to children. The teachers here are dedicated and affectionate. They share a good rapport with the children.' Neelbagh is the only school that lays emphasis on life skills and provides the children with vocational training. I think it is important because, tomorrow, in case they are not academically oriented, they have a skill in hand to rely on, which will help them earn a living’.
He added saying, -‘When children come out of Ashraya, they not only have education but also other skilled works with them. No other school empowers children like this!!. In School, our children are safe, and we feel that our children are at home', he smiled. 'Neelbagh is not only a school but a “Temple of Education” in the lives of the children. I know my children have a bright future in Ashraya-Neelbagh School’.
Venkatanarayana, a daily wage earner, earning a salary of about 2000 per month, says his son Karthik is in 10th standard, in Neelbagh School and daughter Shilpa Rani is studying final year, Bachelor of Science, in a college. He says, -‘Neelbagh has a very good environment for the children. All the children are getting lunch, which is very important for us, as a daily wage earner, we cannot afford to send lunch for them every day. All the children, irrespective of caste, creed, etc. are given equal care and facilities. There is no discrimination. This is very special to us!! Teachers also don’t make any discrimination. They are very humble and polite.
‘The bus facility has made our children to move without any tension’ We do not worry about their safety when they are travelling from home to school as they are going by bus’. ‘We are happy with the service offered by Ashraya-Neelbagh School. and that students learn computer, Carpentry, Tailoring and Electrical work. This is very good for their future’, he says with a beaming smile.
When he was asked, what he thought was different at Ashraya-Neelbagh School from other schools? He emphatically said,’ AshrayaNeelbagh School does not demand donations, whereas private schools demands thousands and lakhs of rupees. Meals are given to children whereas private school expects us to send packed meals for them. This is the only school with variety in education and other skills. Neelbagh School Headmaster and teachers respect the parents and hear their problems whereas private schools are not concerned with parents’ problems. Thank you for everything’.
The following workshops and enhanced learning opportunities were provided by the School:
- Clown therapy- ‘Verbano Onlus’, a group of volunteers, from Italy spent quality time with the children from primary to high School on 16th and 17th of August 2012. The clown therapy was a source of fun and entertainment for the children. It was timed well before they began preparing for their monthly tests and exams and served as a stress buster.
- Yoga workshop – Mr.Raja Manickam, an experienced yoga teacher in the city conducted a very inspirational yoga workshop for the High school children on 25th and 26th August 2012. The session covered some very useful yoga postures, sun salutation and breathing techniques to keep mentally and physically fit.
- Teachers’ training- An issue based training workshop was conducted by Ms. Indira Ganapathy on 1st and 2nd of September 2012. It was a way of celebrating Teachers’ day on 2nd Sep, productively. The workshop introduced teachers to creative ways and methods of teaching, addressed common problems faced by teachers such as dealing with limited attention span of children. It also involved group activities and games for the teachers which helped team building. Overall, the workshop was a fun experience coupled with lot of learning.
- Self Organized Mediation Environments (SOMEs)- Ashraya currently has tied up with an initiative called solesandsomes, which brings together volunteers from different parts of the world to teach English and build language skills through personal/general conversations, story- telling etc. via Skype sessions. There is now a scheduled time set aside for this exercise, every day in the week and the children are thoroughly enjoying the session, which not only enhances their English language skills but also gives them an exposure to much more than text book oriented knowledge about different cultures, languages and people.
- Sex education worksop- Ms.Uttara Vidyasagar, an experienced counsellor conducted the sex education workshop for the high school children on 22 September 2012. It was to enable them to understand their biological differences and vulnerabilities so that they can differentiate between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ and can protect themselves. They also learn about their own sexuality which is critical during adolescence.
The school continues to drive the ‘Importance of education’ and strives towards providing a holistic environment for the children by offering opportunities for all rounded development to all the children without any discrimination in the rural areas, thereby contributing to a future with educated and informed youngsters.