In July 2001, a school opened in the tribal hamlet of Fagandar, on the banks of the Girna in Devla, Nashik district. Fagandar is a hamlet of 25 or 30 houses, inhabited by Adivasi families that depend on farm labour, and the school was intended for their children.
The school took for its motto: ‘Let’s uphold the vision of education, let’s develop our hamlet’. It was a school with almost no assets, however. But its two teachers enlisted community participation to make it a school in which the quality of education would eventually rival that of private educational institutes.
Until 2007, the school in Fagandar was just like other small village schools that typically operate out of small rooms without adequate seating arrangements and with just thatch or a sheet of corrugated iron for a roof. However, the school’s fortunes changed when it became a Zilla Parishad school – under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, it acquired a building of its own. This new stability, along with a range of activities introduced by its two teachers, began to give the school a sound local reputation.
In 2001, the Maharashtra state govt began to focus on starting hamlet schools in remote areas. Fagander’s school was the first such school in the state to receive an ISO rating, in 2016. This was after a setback in which it had been given a ‘D’ grade in educational quality development — which has turned into a steady ‘A’ for some years now.
This transformation was achieved through the hard work of the school’s only two teachers, Ananda Pawar and Khandu More, assisted in no small measure by the community, including villagers from nearby Khamkheda, social organisations, and generous individuals.
Fagandar ZP School is a step ahead of many others in terms of experimental education. They ask a question every day to improve the students’ general knowledge. Both classrooms have knowledge-based charts painted on their floors. Addition and subtraction tables, an introduction to the place value of numbers, and other mathematical concepts are part of these charts, and students absorb these through various learning activities.
‘Akshardhara’ is one such activity, in which students draw letters with the help of pebbles and shells. They enjoy this method of learning words, using objects that they generally use for play. The students are divided into three groups, according to their learning capacities and levels, which allows the teachers to respond to their respective needs.The school celebrated ‘Reading Inspiration Day’ in the vicinity of nature by asking each student to read a lesson.
Situated at the top of a hill, the school is painted in striking colours, with more than 300 trees on the premises. The teachers worked with the students to make their school a green oasis on rugged land where getting water was difficult. The trees include 42 medicinal varieties, besides harda, nutmeg, aloe vera, anand, jayphal, amla, basil, neem, ashvagandha, banyan trees. Every tree is named, which helps students identify them. To quench the thirst of birds, the students have rigged up water feeders, and sparrows, mynas, crows and other birds fill the air with their chirps and calls.
The Fagander school is also the first e-learning digital school in Devlataluka. Teaching is done using computers, an interactive smart board and a projector. The students, from deprived backgrounds, learn to use all this equipment most skillfully. Many in the larger community are amazed by the use of tablets in education. Students in the 4th Std make their own Power Point presentations. The teachers have produced several educational videos for use in class, and also have their own blog. As a result, attendance is higher then ever, and so is the quality of education.
All these innovations constitute an attempt to move away from the traditional “chalk-board” method of teaching, and to connect classroom learning to the outside world. Students are encouraged to study on their own. The teachers try to help students overcome the usual fear of authority and foster camaraderie in the student-teacher relationship by taking students on outdoor rambles in the hills and open grounds. The students go on a whole range of educational field visits: small scale enterprises, a biogas plant, a place that practices ideal modern farming, a primary health center, the post office, a bank, a poultry farm, a sugar factory, the police station, to name but a few. These field visits are related back to the syllabus in their text books.
For their all-round development, other activities are held, such as yoga and Pranayam, games, extra time with the e-learning equipment. These take place Saturdays, when students don’t need to bring their schoolbags – it’s a schoolbag holiday! And so popular is this idea with students that Saturday usually means a hundred percent attendance.
This is the first school in the district to have its own blog. The school updates its various activities on social media accounts. This helps spread the information to other schools in the state, some of which are then inspired to implement similar activities. The use of social media also helps the school to obtain educational materials from different social organisations.
School Blog: http://khandumore34dreamsschool.blogspot.in/
Face book page: https://www.facebook.com/zpschoolfhangdar.taldeola?ref=br_rs
YouTube channel: khandu more dream school
The teachers felt the school needed a stationery store, as most of the students were from economically weak backgrounds. Now they are able to buy pens, pencils, notebooks, paints and so on at the school’s non-profit store – managed by students, who thereby learn some business skills.
Community participation was a significant factor in the school’s development. Though all the students are children of Adivasi farm labourers, the teachers were able to raise almost Rs 8,00,000/- for the school.
The bright, curious students, and their attractive school environment, impressed several individuals, including teachers and elected representatives with access to government funds, as well as local doctors’ and builders’ associations, and other organisations, enough to make generous donations. These enabled the repainting of the school with attractive murals, the planting of a garden with medicinal plants, the purchase of learning aids and equipment, the laying of a pipeline to bring water to the school, the installation of a hand- pump and water filter, all of which play their part in creating a wholesome and inspiring learning environment.
The e-learning classroom equipped with computers, a projector, sound system and amplifier, and an interactive smart board, was set up entirely with public support. The school grounds have been levelled to make a good playing field. There is an impressive archway at the entrance to the school. One of the most generous donations was the water supply, with Umaji Deore, Bhausaheb Deore and Prabhakar Shevale providing the pipeline to bring water from their own well to the school.
Today, this small Adivasi hamlet school, which was unknown to the world outside, is receiving funds for development. This is an acknowledgement of our efforts. The happiness of witnessing all the work being done is just indescribable.
Writer: Khandu More, Z. P. School, Fagandar, Tal- Deola, Nashik District
Translation & editing: Samata.shiksha team