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Punjab: With Increasing Dropouts, One Teacher United An Entire Village To Transform This Govt Primary School

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Government Primary School at Reona Bhola, a small village in Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab is an interesting case study. Despite its 64 years of eventful history, the school had a depressing count of just 30 students even a year ago. It might have lead to the shutting down of the school eventually. But, a motivated teacher of the school, Sukhwinder Singh, brought in a ray of hope. He started interacting with the community members and formed a registered society called ‘Children’s Bright Future Society’ (CBFS) which helped the school revive its infrastructure and reputation in the village. Enlisting all forms of help from the villagers, CBFS facilitated the development of a smart classroom with computers and an LCD Screen. They also renovated the school library and took many other measures to uplift the tools of education. The school now stands tall with improved infrastructure and quality teachers. CBFS also organised a 10-day summer camp in June’ 18, a first of its kind in this area. This was perhaps one of the very rare instances in India where a community came together to support school education.
Due to their efforts, within a year, the school was able to admit 22 new students in the Nursery section. The student count has now increased to 60, and the school now attracts pupils from private schools and neighbouring villages as well. A small step towards the future helped the village members to join hands for a common cause and envision a school which helps the children reach their highest potential. This earnest will is reflected in the words of Subhash Kumar, Secretary, CBFS, “ਹੱਲੇ ਤਾ ਤੁਰੇ ਆ, ਪੌਂਚੇ ਨਈ” – loosely translated as – ‘The journey has just started’.

GPS Reona Bhola
Sukhwinder Singh, the headteacher at GPS, Reona Bhola, who spearheaded the community movement to revive the school

More parents are opting for private schools

Although there is immense potential, yet a lot of people in Punjab are abandoning government schools due to misconception. Families with decent resources are migrating their children to private schools; leaving behind the children from low-income families in government schools who cannot afford an expensive education. Among all things, this sadly leads to segregation based on income and opportunity and most importantly, zero accountability to turn government schools into better learning centres.
In case of a drop in attendance rates, the government starts withdrawing teachers from any school – something GPS Reona Bhola also faced.

GPS Reona Bhola
Students at GPS Reona Bhola

Villagers in Reona Bhola proved why the community needs to start taking ownership of the government schools in their villages. Once the community is on board, accountability begins to emerge within the school. Active indicators of this are a rise in enrolment rates and an improved learning outcome. By ensuring an active collaboration between the school and the community, Reona Bhola is confident that together they can go a long way!


64-year-old history of the school

Government Primary School, Reona Bhola has its origins in 1954 in the house of the then Sarpanch Subedar (Retd.) Ram Singh Ji, who felt the need of an educational institution in his native Gram Reona Bhola and started teaching in his house. The school strength increased to 60 in the successive four years from its start.

In 1958, Ram Singh Ji laid down the foundation stone of the Government Primary School on land allotted by the Gram Panchayat and built two rooms with a courtyard. Classes were usually conducted under a Banyan tree in the campus. The school strength stood at approximately 50 students including the ones from neighbouring villages, namely Reona Uchha, Dalomajra, Miyanpur, Patarsi Khurd, Deriya and Bahlolpur.

The school envisioned to expand its curriculum and provide sports facilities to the students. An initiative led by teachers Sohan Lal and Ved Prakash Sood, every student contributed three stones daily towards filling of the adjacent dried up community pond and levelling it to form a ground for the School. With both academic and sports opportunities, the school developed as a breeding ground for educated youth and strengthened to teach 100 pupils.

Sarpanch (Smt.) Gurdial Kaur allocated additional funds to the School for the building of three rooms and an office. She also facilitated the construction of a boundary wall. Under the guidance of Teacher Rachhpal Singh Ji, the school reached many milestones both in academic and sports events at the State level.


Community effort in reviving the school in recent times

When the enrolment in the school was dropping, teacher Sukhwinder Singh prompted his colleagues to team up and approach the community for all possible help. Together, they formed a society (CBFS) and started activity-based learning sessions for the pre-schoolers. They focused on honing the practical skills of children like spoken English and Maths.
One well-wisher from the village made arrangements for a tempo which served as the free transport facility to the students from poorer families.

GPS Reona Bhola
Students at GPS Reona Bhola

The community of GPS Reona Bhola has done a lot in improving the school and ensuring accountability. It will continue doing it in a better way. They aspire to transform their village school to a model school of the stature of Kendriya Vidyalaya when it comes to quality of education.
In rural Punjab, through the example of Reona Bhola, it was observed that the community is closely knit and is willing to come together for a common cause. This spirit of the collective may make people work on all other common goals of the community.


A recent success story

Armaanjot Singh, an ex-student of GPS Reona Bhola, joined the school in 2017 in 5th Standard from a nearby private school. According to his parents, “We were only paying hefty fees for the last 7 years, and our child didn’t learn anything. But after attending GPS Reona Bhola for one year, he can read the news headlines on TV in Punjabi, Hindi and English. He can solve division problems, knows multiplication tables up to 25, can do his homework all by himself and has a renewed interest in studies.”

This success story, among many, proves GPS Reona Bhola stands tall amongst many schools in Fatehgarh Sahib District. Amidst the increasing trend of enrolling the kids in private schools, GPS Reona Bhola has reversed the trend. Currently, the school has a strength of 60 students with 22 students in Pre-Nursery.

A fundraising campaign has been organised by the collaboration between Children’s Bright Future Society, Panchayat of the Village Reona Bhola, Teachers of the Government Primary School, Reona Bhola and NGO Sanjhi Sikhiya Foundation, to revive the lost glory of GPS Reona Bhola and propel it to be a premier school in the state.

– Shiv Pujan, Sanjhi Sikhiya Foundation


Also Read: Village Schools In Madhya Pradesh Get 100 Digital Classrooms, Thanks To This Organisation

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2,00,000 meals served
Emergency funds sent to 350 families
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Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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2,00,000 meals served
Emergency funds sent to 350 families

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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