Naihati – outskirts of Kolkata

Meeting school Principals was never more difficult. Ayan, Priya and I were constantly turned away because the Principals were busy preparing for the April examinations!. So much for driving for 2 hours and cold calling at schools. We did meet a very young enterprising school owner who had taken up franchiseeship of “alohaindia” – the company started by Shakuntala Devi, the Math Guru. The children at the school were well disciplined, the school premises were clean and the teachers always had a smile on their faces. We also met the hostile Principal of a Miltary school, who was not interested in having “non-army” personnel on the premises!!. Needless to say, we didn’t have much succcess at this school!!

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Raja Bazaar – bylanes of Kolkata

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Chetan and I visited two schools during our visit to Raja Bazaar.

Both the schools were housed in tiny brick huts and would surely become extremely uncomfortable in the summer months. Funds allow only for a single session taught by a lone educator. Though poverty seemed rampant everywhere in the slums, there seemed to be a cheerful spirit amongst everyone I met during my visit. The children were extremely bright and looked forward to their annual “Camlin drawing competition” just as we were leaving.

The school fees ranged from Rs 25- Rs 35 a month depending on the class attended. Unfortunately, while this sum seemed on the higher side for some of the families, the same parents did not hesitate to spend Rs 60 a month to send the children for a “coaching class” in the evening!.

Sri Ram School –

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Early Tuesday Morning, I was driven 1 hour from Chennai to the Sri Ram Foundation school.. 

It was quite uplifting spending time with so many bright and hopeful young students. The school only has one section per class and this seems to be working since the teachers are more focused and have a great one on one relationship with all students.  

The school was started in 1991 and graduated its first class of 10th graders in 1996. The teachers, like all the people we meet working in the health and education sectors, are tremendously pragmatic and dedicated in the face of difficulties that most of these students face since most hail from middle –class backgrounds.

Parents of most of the children attending this school work at the adjacent Sri Ram factories. They pay fees – approximatley 300 Rs amonth ,a cost that seems well spent since  the children do seem to be getting a good quality education. Many of the students we talked to had already decided on what they would study at University – engineering, medicine and computer science were the most popular subjects. All of the students were articulate, confident and spoke easily about their experiences.

The school is in good hands. The principal – Mr Krishnan is extremely enterprising and wants to introduce the Kaizen and TQM methodology to education at this school.

A Ray of Hope

Parikrma Kids

I have been raving about Parikrma (www.parikrmafoundation.org/) to anybody who will give me the time of day. Mrs. Shukla Bose and her team have something good going at the four schools they have been running in the city of Bangalore. I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the children and their smartness.

Each class is named after a planet. Class 1 is Mercury, Class 2 is Venus etc. I asked the class 2 students why they were called Venus. One girl stood up and told that they were called Venus because Venus is the 2nd planet from the Sun and they were the 2nd class. At this point another kid stood up and said that he disagreed. He felt that they were called Venus because Venus is the brightest planet and they were the brightest kids in the school!

Most kids come from underprivileged backgrounds. Many continue to be child laborers. And yet they are clearly getting a good education at Parikrma. The English I heard from these students was better than the English of many students in the elite schools I have visited so far.

One more remarkable aspect of the Parikrma story is their ability to raise funds from CSR programs. Each individual classroom is sponsored by a company. I saw classrooms sponsored by Motorola and Adobe. Is this a story unique to high-tech Bangalore or can this model be replicated at the other metros? Mrs. Bose thinks that it is replicable and can be achieved for 15,000 Rupees per child per year (2,000 less than the government already spends). We are eager to help her create a model that can be franchised across the various cities. Please contact us if you are interested in starting a Parikrma school in your city or want to help us create this model.

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