The samata.shiksha team visited the Jarewadi ZP School of in the interiors of Patoda tehsil in Beed district, Maharashtra. Jarewadi is a picturesque village surrounded by green hills. The ZP school here is the first school in Beed to receive ISO certification. The team also wanted to meet Sandip Pawar ‘Sir’, recipient of the President’s Award for Ideal Teacher. Built on slopes, the colourful school building with its happy, playing students would bring a smile to any visitor’s face.
Students welcomed us with flowers, a smart and cheerful young student introduced herself to us, declaring that she would be our designated guide and would show us around the school! We followed her, impressed. She proudly showed us the huge playground, with a neat stage at one end. Then, climbing a couple of steps, we entered classrooms that were attractively decorated with a variety of educational aids. She gave us a tour of the art room, the students’ bank, the Dr. Abdul Kalam Laboratory, and the clean and tidy kitchen where the midday meals are cooked.
Continuing down corridors, their walls displaying the oath against abusive language, and Do-s and Don’t-s for the students, we visited some more classrooms. The various signboards that we came across on our walk showed us how well-laid-out and organized the school was. We noted the separate toilets for boys and girls and observed a vermiculture project in a corner.
On climbing up one level, we entered the e-learning lab. This well-equipped room had a projector, a laptop, as well as an array of desktops for students. It also had a small library with 68 volumes of poems, all written by students of the school!
Another level up, and we enjoyed an unrestricted view of the entire Jarewadi village, and the greenery all around. On one hillside, we noticed a temporary hostel with a small playground, built for the children of sugarcane farm laborers. The majority of the students in the Jarewadi ZP School come from families that work in the sugarcane fields.
As we climbed down, it was time for school to be out, but first the samata.shiksha team was interviewed by two students in front of the entire school body. We were asked questions not only in Marathi but in English as well. After school was over, the students – from some 55 neighboring villages – left in batches, first by private vehicles and then in an ST bus.
We were amazed to find such a school in the interiors of Maharashtra – with its well-equipped lab, its art room displaying beautiful handicraft items made of quilling, cotton, mud. The customers of the students’ bank have their own passbooks and slip-books to deposit money, and the school also boasts an e-learning class.
The samata team decided to find out more about the school from its Principal, Sandip Pawar. Pawar ‘Sir’, who belongs to the Patoda tehsil, joined in 1995. At the time, the school consisted of two dirty, dilapidated classrooms with a total of 24 students. There wasn’t even a proper road from the village to the school.
But Pawar ‘Sir’ had joined the school determined to bring about a change. Within three days, he had the school walls whitewashed and painted with colourful pictures, to attract students. He began by telling the students stories and encouraging them to sing aloud. Within a week of his arrival, he called for a meeting of the village community, at which he stressed the importance of education, and how it would have a positive impact on the future of every child in the village. He spoke of his commitment to the progress of the students and asked the community to get involved in the school and to take on responsibilities.
Pawar ‘Sir’ recounts, “When I joined the school, this area, where you see all these buildings, was all a big garbage dump. The villagers would lead their cattle here. I felt that it was important for the school and its surroundings to be clean, in order to attract students. Slowly, I succeeded in developing a sense of ownership towards the school in the village community. The result was that when we wanted to develop the school up to the 8th standard, they gave these two acres of land to the school. And even though all the villagers here have modest means of income, they collected Rs 17,500 for the school.”
For several years, ‘Sir’ had to teach all classes up to the 5th std himself. He managed this by forming groups, and asking one group to study on its own, while he taught another group, and had a third group watch educational programmes on TV or listen to such programmes on the radio. Often, he would take extra classes to help students master their language and maths skills. Even today, students at this school spend some time every day preparing for the baseline tests that are conducted every year by the Education department. The school has several activities aimed at helping students develop confidence and increase their general knowledge. These include: reading the daily newspaper and other publications, besides text books; elocution competitions and debates; essay and poetry writing; the scouts and guides club.
Since 2009, the school has been a semi-English-medium school, where some classes are conducted in English. To know more about the remarkable journey of the Jarewadi school, do read Part 2 of this story.
Blog & photos : Snehal Bansode-Sheludkar, For Comet Media Foundation
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team