ISRA 2020
ISRA 2020
Vardan Kabra

Covid19 Frontline Education Warrior: Vardan Kabra, Fountain Head School

June 5, 2020

Promoted in 2005 with the mission statement “to nurture leaders with character and competence”, the IB (Geneva) affiliated Fountainhead School, Surat has established an excellent national reputation for providing holistic 21st century K-12 education to over 2,200 students from nursery through grade 12. Unsurprisingly, the school has also been recognised among Fortune India’s “Future 50 Schools Shaping Success” and is a recipient of the EducationWorld Grand Jury Awards 2019-20 in the category of Career Counselling Leaders.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck India in March prompting the mass closure of educational institutions, the Fountainhead School management and staff, led by Vardan Kabra, stepped up to face the challenge head-on.

“Our crisis intervention approach for handling this sudden change has been to ease into the change, as we always do at Fountainhead. Change is our mantra. We look forward to getting out of the rut, moving out of our comfort zones and the virus made us do that, albeit not in the way we wanted it but nonetheless we accepted the challenge head on,” says Vardan Kabra, head of Fountainhead School.

An engineering graduate of IIT Bombay with an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, Kabra partnered with a batchmate from IIM Ahmedabad to start the Fountainhead Preschool in 2005. Following the resounding success of his flagship educational venture, Kabra promoted the Fountainhead School in 2005. With over 15 years’ experience in the education sector, Kabra is currently authoring a book on reimagining education in India. 

Under Vardan Kabra’s able leadership, the Fountainhead School has been following a four-pronged strategy to deal with the exigencies of the deadly pandemic.

Virtual learning: To ensure provision of uninterrupted learning for students, Fountainhead School started offering online classes, with ample support and intervention, to students from Early Years through Grade 12. Students, parents and educators effortlessly switched to blended learning. Online classes, storytelling and doubt solving sessions and even online assessments were conducted seamlessly.

Vardan Kabra Fountainhead School

“Interrupted  internet access, crashed devices, less support from home (both for students and educators) were the very real challenges which we faced, but that did not deter us, we just kept going one challenge at a time. Students who struggled were given one to one classes, problematic  devices were managed by providing chromebooks from school (through an elaborate delivery plan), educators who needed help were provided with support buddies. And we managed, we did not do it perfectly, but we did not give up. Our students and parents have been immensely grateful for the support from school,” says Vardan Kabra.

Professional development: The crisis called for immediate upskilling for everyone involved, right from educators to the administrative staff. Fountainhead School’s culture of continuous learning helped the school community deal with the challenge by providing online professional development sessions.

The teaching and non-teaching staff of Fountainhead School used the easily accessible  e-learning portals such as Coursera, Future Learn, Edulearn, Firki etc. to upskill themselves. For educators, customised in-house PD sessions led by the middle leadership team with guidance from the academic leadership team were also conducted.

Elaborating on Fountainhead’s professional development initiatives, Vardan Kabra says, “We recruited new people and trained them for the new role through daily online sessions-which included assignments and quizzes and continuous evaluation – Google Classroom and Google Hangout have been our go-to tools for these sessions. We even made extensive detailed  tutorials to guide parents to help their kids with distance learning.”Fountainhead School, Surat

Wellbeing of the school community: The educators had a one-to-one meeting with students and parents to check on their wellbeing during the early stages of the lockdown.

The mid-level leaders/line managers have been keeping a tab on their team’s wellbeing regularly through phone calls, emails and online meetings.

The school’s wellbeing counsellors have launched a website for uplifting and supporting the school community during these testing times. The counsellors have been guiding students, parents and staff on self-awareness, empathy, managing emotions and stress.

Community engagement: Fountainhead School has been at the forefront of extending support to the wider community since the early stages of the lockdown. Some of its noteworthy community outreach initiatives include:

  • Donation of a substantial amount to the PM Cares Fund.
  • Provision of meals prepared in the school kitchen to 2500 needy people on a daily basis.

Despite the several challenges looming ahead for the education fraternity, Vardan Kabra is optimistic about the future.

“So yes, the world has changed and we have changed…these are tiring and difficult times but we haven’t given up hope…and we will fight this with gratitude for our here and now blessings, focusing on what we can control while maintaining social distance. While the threat is real, we will also keep the positivity real.”

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