Ground leveling and beautification work – as explained by Ajit Gonate, teacher at Kaspada, Vikramgad
Zilla Parishad School, Kaspada, Taluka Vikramgad, District Palghar – a government-run primary school in remote tribal area 120 kilometers north of Mumbai – a school with three teachers and about 85 students from the first to fifth standard – a school sincerely striving to bring and retain deprived tribal children in mainstream educational system while sustaining the quality of education. Yet the school was considered a laggard, even within the tribal region, just five years back.
Since August 2013, the school started receiving active assistance from Suhrid Foundation, and the fortune smiled on the school. The journey together which started with basic healthcare for the school children, progressed in a purposeful way through a series of milestone achievements: nutrition enrichment, sports provision, library setup, clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, extended learning (For e.g., linguistics learning, personal development), physical amenities, and so on. The children gained health and strength through the enriched nutrition program whereas the sport facilitation helped them to skillfully compete and win in the sports competition at district level. The extended training benefited the children in their comprehensive development and confidence building. The physical and emotional well-being of the school children is now assured. The school is on a path of progression.
While all this is going great as far as school children are concerned, the school campus continued to have peculiar safety and security challenges. The steep rocky land profile around the school building was risky and unattractive. It spoiled aesthetics of school landscape, but more importantly, it was unsafe for the children to play or run around. Fencing or securing school was just not possible with resources at hand. Any effort of landscaping or gardening around the school would go in vein due to regular nuisance from stray animals and trouble makers. We, the school teachers, urged Suhrid Foundation to help us in building a beautiful, safe and ideal school campus while the villagers assured of every possible contribution on their behalf. We were primarily in need of financial help in procuring building materials.
Suhrid Foundation, being an NGO primarily focused on healthcare and education of underprivileged children, was reluctant to venture into infrastructure aid. Nonetheless, Team Suhrid agreed to finance for the building materials, but with a pre-condition that the entire work should be done only through Shramdaan i.e. through voluntary contribution of labor from the villagers. The charged-up villagers promptly accepted the pre-condition. Later though Team Suhrid honored their hard work by offering them a hundred rupees worth food grain per day of the work.
We initiated the work first by calling for a villagers meet at the school wherein we explained them the need and the method of the work. The villagers present at the meeting were divided into five teams. The building material such as bricks, sand, cement, water pump, drums etc. was to be provisioned by the villagers with monetary aid for the same coming from Team Suhrid.
The Endeavor began…
The scale and scope of the endeavor was overwhelming: 15000 bricks, 6 trucks load of stones, 7 trucks load of sand, 130 cement sacks, 60 masons, 320 villagers (laborers), two tractors, one JCB machine. The villagers labored from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm over 2 months without a single holiday. The teachers and villagers were dedicated full-time on this work. A lot many problems came in the way yet he villagers overcame all of them with extra-ordinary zeal. For instance, when we could not get bullocks to draw the cart carrying goods for inauguration ceremony, the youths of the village willingly substituted for bullocks to draw the cart the whole way to the venue.
We are deeply obliged to many of the villagers who lent their time, effort and personal belongings – to name a few: Kenzare uncle who would water the cement construction in an extreme cold weather (at the time), Baraf uncle who sent 50 trolleys of red soil (to the school for plantation), Kharbade uncle who guarded the sand and cement sacks in the night without expecting a single rupee in return, and many women and girls of the village who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the men counterparts.
The purposeful, united and zealous effort of the villagers paid off – today, we have a beautiful, safe and secure campus at Kaspada School. It is secured with a wall-fencing all around it. It has a leveled play-ground for children to play and exercise. It has a garden where we can grow our own vegetables for the mid-day meal of the students (under Suhrid Nutrition Enrichment Program). It has a platform to conduct school programs and events. ZP School, Kaspada has a remarkable transformation. Indeed, it is a dream come true for us!
We completed this project in less than half the official budget was estimated by government (in official records) with no compromise on quality, whatsoever.
A milestone is achieved. An example is set. Yet, the work will continue even further. We will scale-up our gardening effort at the school. We will secure the roof-top of our school building. And, we are confident now that we will continue to get enthusiastic cooperation from the villagers and Suhrid Foundation will always stand by us for every noble cause, small or big. We sincerely believe our dreams will get wings with continuing support from Team Suhrid and the children of our school will fly high in the skies of achievements.