Shree ki Pathshala initiative helps rural students think big

May 4, 2019

In rural India, going to school means walking a few miles in the scorching sun each day lugging a school bag but passing out of school has been a far bigger challenge for the underprivileged children many of whom are first-generation school-goers in their family.

Against this backdrop, Kolkata headquartered Shree Cement Limited launched its Shree ki Pathshala (SKP) project in 2016 as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative aimed at reaching out to students from poor families.

Shree ki Pathshala introduced qualified teachers to coach school students in science and mathematics after school hours to fill in the acute staff deficit. SKP tutors lay much emphasis on the quality of teaching and also ensure that the students are comfortable during the class and share their problems with the tutors.

Within two years of launching the Shree ki Pathshala scheme, three schools in Lulwa, Lasadia and Neem Garh villages of Rajasthan registered 100 percent pass percentage in 2017-18 for the first time in its history while one SKP school in Andheri Deori showed marked improvement with 89 per cent of the students passing higher secondary exams. Some students who had no hope of passing out of school went on to score high marks and were rewarded by the state government.

Many students from poor families in the remote villages of Ajmer district in Rajasthan, who did not want to go to the schools, now want to pursue higher studies and careers because of the SKP initiative.

The Shree ki Pathshala project took off in 2016 when four government-run schools were adopted to introduce special coaching to the poorest students. The impact of the initiative was well beyond expectations.

A dearth of qualified teaching staff ails most schools in the district which are unable to complete the syllabus. Space too is a big constraint in schools and different classes share the same room at the same time. This takes its toll on the quality of education. Students from the poor families, who have no means or resources at home, are the worst affected.

“The impact of Shree ki Pathshala (SKP) has surprised us in many ways. The marked improvement in the results under SKP has been noticed by other schools. We are receiving numerous requests from the principals of others schools in the region to introduce project Shree ki Pathshala in their schools as well. The biggest impact of SKP has been to enthuse the poorest of students to take up higher education and look forward to a career. In villages, where education awareness is almost non-existent, there has been a silent revolution among the students, parents and the village community at large. They are now seeing education as the means of empowerment and ensuring a good future,” said Sanjay Mehta, president (commercial), Shree Cement Ltd.

Shree ki Pathshala’s coaching team has worked out a semester-style approach to teaching science and maths where each student is assessed on a daily basis and individual progress reports prepared. The real achievement of SKP has been to break the barriers that kept students from sharing their problems. SKP has also introduced mock examinations prior to the higher secondary exam where the students are taught how to approach exams in a scientific manner and ensure a higher percentage of marks. The students are well prepared in advance to face the secondary board exams. Special classes are also conducted by SKP on Sundays when necessary.

“One of our first tasks is to connect with each student in a way he or she feels absolutely at ease to stand up and share with us their problems. Once we establish this much of our teaching work becomes easy. It is quite like opening up the mind’s windows one by one. The results have been well beyond our imagination,” said Mohammad Talib, a special staff of Shree ki Pathshala who teaches mathematics to the students.

Rahman, Anant, Jagdish, Farzana and Afsana among others scored high marks and were rewarded Rs 5000 by the Rajasthan government. “After attending the Shree ki Pathshala, we feel very confident to pursue higher studies and take up jobs and careers. Earlier, my colleagues and I did not give much thought to careers, nor did we consider education and school seriously. Nobody in my family attended school. Things have now changed. I feel I have a purpose in life and can achieve a lot. I will surely work hard to make myself and my family’s future secure,” said Rahman, son of a farm labourer.

Most of the students are the children of poor labourers, farmers and stone breakers for whom sending a child to the school could mean having a meal or two less at home.

Afsana Bano, one of the girls who scored a first division after attending Shree ki Pathshala said, “I want to become a doctor. My mother has told me that she would help me go all the way to get a good education and career.”

Kailash Chandra Bajara, principal of Neem Garh School feels that the Shree ki Pathshala has had a magical impact on the psyche of the students. “Earlier the students would seek reasons to stay away from school. But SKP project has changed it all. Students now have a sense of healthy competition and the mind to face exams with confidence,” he says.

“We have started an initiative under SKP to reach out by holding regular meetings with the parents of the students. This gives us an opportunity to spread education awareness among the backward communities,” said Rajat Surana of Shree Cement Ltd who heads the Shree ki Pathshala CSR project.

“We get lot of feedback from the village level of the impact that SKP project has had in communities with low literacy levels. We would slowly expand the Shree ki Pathshala project to cover more schools in the region in the coming years,” said Amit Tak and Manoj Biyani, members of Shree Cement Ltd CSR Group in Beawar.

The students, who earlier had no idea of what to do in life other than pursuing their family occupation now think differently. “I will become a teacher someday. I will learn computers and use Facebook and WhatsApp like others do,” said Ashfak Kathat.

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