24.08.12 | getting to know the schools
Yesterday we explored the area around Chandar Nagar, with the school’s principle Chitra, to meet some of the families, and understand the challenges they face. Attendance at the school is very low; partly because there’s no history of education within the families and also because many of the children work in order to help support themselves. Chitra is as much a social worker as a teacher; each day she has to walk around the four residential areas that her pupils come from trying to persuade and motivate the parents to ensure their children to come to school. The parents we met work as laborers, pickers (collecting fragments of plastic and paper to be recycled) and beggars. Having seen the levels of poverty they face, its easier to understand the parents’ apathy towards education.
The picture at Vikasnagar, a school about an hour’s drive from central Dehradun, is very different. Located in a small rural town, most of the parents here work as farmers or tea pickers in local plantations and are very involved in the life of the school. Attendance is high, and there are enough children and staff to ensure full classes with distinct age brackets. The main issue this school faces is a lack of space, and Nanhi Dunya’s ambition is to create a new structure on top of the flat concrete roof. The idea is that this secondary roof will help protect the classrooms below, and create a sheltered area for additional classes, gatherings and performances. This clarity of the program would allow us to engage the school community (particularly the parents) in our project and the craftsmanship that we would like to develop through it. It presents a chance to doing something really exciting for Nanhi Dunya – to go beyond simply providing a basic education, and actually create the kind of self-sufficient and holistic center that the organization is striving for.
For our meeting with the board of Nanhi Dunya we will present what we imagine we could do with either Vikasnagar or Chandar Nagar and see how we can create something that represents the values of the school organization, that can engage the local community and that can inspire the rest of the centers.