Nagar Nigam Pratibha Balika Vidyalaya, a Hindi medium girls’ primary school in Dilshad Colony, has been shortlisted for the best school award in the ‘community collaboration’ category by a United Kingdom-based organisation that has rated schools from 100 countries in five categories.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi-run North East Delhi school, which will vie for the top prize of Rs 2 crore in the final two rounds in September and October with nine others, has been acknowledged for involving parents and guardians of students in educating the neighbourhood communities.
“During Covid, the connectivity with students was lost completely. The students here didn’t have mobile phones since they belong to the marginalised section of the society. We were concerned, so we thought about a ‘community collaboration’ programme. We started it with an NGO called Kshamtalaya Foundation which helped us to connect with the children. I personally thought that if we can do something for the children, even a little bit, and they manage do anything in life, it will be a real achievement,” said Sita Verma, principal of the school.
The NGO and school, which have been working together since 2018, initiated a programme called ‘family champion’ in the post-Covid era.
Seema, a volunteer with Kshamtalaya Foundation, explained how the NGO and school collaborated to make it successful.
“Lockdown was imposed during the pandemic, so many families faced financial hardship. We distributed ration in areas close to the school. This school is at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh (UP) border, so children from UP also study here. The students of UP were facing a big crisis. So, we asked the school to contact the families of students from UP. When we visited there, we found a ghetto and there were no corona-related precautions. So, we created awareness among parents,” said Seema.
During the interaction, they came across people who were educated and had attended school at some level.
“We found that 32 people – parents, guardians or sisters — were educated till about 10th. We decided to start a programme called ‘family champion’ with them,” she added before explaining the role of a family champion further.
“The family champions would come to school and receive a week-long training. During training, we taught them how to be good parents to their children. Then we added some more people and started a chain of communities. We opened 25 learning centres in the nearby communities and distributed books. The family champions started teaching Hindi and mathematics to 25 children in each centre and they would also take the parents-teacher meeting (PTM). Soon they were teaching even those kids who had never been to school. This programme has impacted the community and now around 60-70 % of students’ parents attend the PTM. Till now, we have educated 1600 children.”
Principal Sita lauded the efforts of family champions in educating people in the neighbourhood.
“They have opened a learning centre even in a very congested house, teaching children on the bed. The response from children was good.
“I did not think about the award. Last year also, the foundation asked us to apply for it. But we didn’t. This year we applied and got selected. We never imagined or expected that our initiative would get this level of success.”
The school principal also acknowledged the help received from various quarters in making the school successful.
“Zonal head, assistant director Ramkishan Bharti, was also very supportive and it was not possible without his support. There are 22 teachers in the school now. We also have smart rooms, two libraries, projector and nursery facilities. We have also allotted two rooms to the NGO. Some of our students also volunteer. In the last few years, admissions to our school have increased,” added Sita.
“The award has also been made possible due to the collective initiative of teachers, school, students and their relatives. Now we have extended the programme to three new schools. We have also made 50 family champions till now and will continue to create more,” she concluded.
Those who have become family champions speak highly of the programme, especially about the way it has helped them.
Sangam Kumari, a 34-year-old family champion, told Patriot, “It has helped not only the children but personally too. Our work is to connect children and educate them. We didn’t charge anything from the children but provided stationery and books to those in need. It has also helped me a lot since now I am undergoing graduation studies. Before joining this in 2021, I had forgotten all my studies or skills and was busy only with my family. It gives me an opportunity to know myself again.”
The native from Bihar, whose husband works in a factory, lives in Seemapuri.
“I get 1500 per month from the NGO. However, I don’t do this work for money but only to gain experience. Most NGOs generally give opportunities only to the youth but here, there is no age bar. So, I am very happy working here and want to continue ahead,” she concluded.