A chorus of singing draws you into a large area with children, neem trees and a riot of colours. The morning assembly is in progress at Saduthala Primary School, tucked away in Gujarat’s Mehsana district. After an invigorating yoga session, a voice with bell-like clarity rings through the ground announcing the headlines of the day. This is Teerth, the head-boy of the school. As more songs are sung (the pre-primary children the most enthusiastic singers) and the headteacher, Saileshbhai, addresses the assembly, there stands a tall girl to the side, watching over the students, smiling pleasantly. Aditi is the head-girl of the school and enjoys her post immensely.
The school is up to the 8th grade and both Aditi and Teerth are set to graduate and move to another school in a few months. They aren’t ready to leave yet, and neither are their classmates. This school has been a safe and happy space, a second home for them. This isn’t too hard to believe. Entering the gates, one is met with a visual treat. The months of the year, the names of scientists and their inventions and discoveries, major festivals celebrated in India, landmark developments and milestones of the modern world, and other fascinating trivia adorn the footpaths and the walls of the school. A large concrete map of Gujarat with its districts is laid out on a platform next to a model of the solar system. It is immediately evident that learning is made engaging and enjoyable. Beyond the decorated exterior of the school is also an environment of great cheer and positivity.
There is a warmth that the staff exudes, and the headteacher beams with pride when asked to talk about the school. Here is a community working to ensure learning is joyful. Here is a school that Aditi, Teerth, and their peers are hesitant to leave behind on their graduation.
Seeing her intense love for the school, one would imagine Aditi has been here right from her foundational years. Teerth certainly has been here since the 1st grade and wouldn’t trade his experience for the world. But Aditi’s is a different tale. She was in a private school and moved here only when she was in the 5th grade. Her mother heard about how well the teachers engaged with children here and decided to shift Aditi here too. In three years, this school has become an integral and unforgettable part of her life.
It is no surprise that Saduthala Primary School falls under the Mission Schools of Excellence as part of the Gujarat Outcomes for Accelerated Learning (GOAL) programme supported by the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The driven headteacher with his cadre of enthusiastic teachers, the print rich environment, the attractive teaching and learning materials in the classrooms and most importantly, the joyful children, all make the school a perfect candidate to be a part of this programme. But the headteacher never settles. He is constantly in search of ways to better the school and engage the children more effectively. The teachers and children match his energy and enthusiasm, making for a perfectly synchronised team, and children like Aditi can’t get enough of it.
Deeply focused on her academics and determined to become an IAS officer, Aditi is on a mission to gather as much knowledge as she can and learn from every person she encounters. She reads the newspapers everyday and is always looking to connect with others. Most importantly, she feels constantly supported by her teachers. She doesn’t shy away from approaching them and seeking their advice. She likes how they never hesitate to guide her and offer her practical solutions to her questions. For Teerth, it’s the importance given to health and fitness that help him towards his goal of joining the Indian Army. For him too, the encouragement offered by his teachers is never ending. He feels he has come to understand his teachers and their way of teaching over the years which has helped them develop a bond.
Academics aren’t the only thing keeping Aditi and Teerth busy. They preside over the several student committees set up to ensure all children are equal partners in the upkeep and smooth running of the school. The committees include Water Supply, Midday Meal, Garden, Health, Prayer, Library, Picnic, and Sports and Games committees. They make sure regular meetings are held where all students have a chance to participate in the discussions and in the execution of projects.
On a rotation basis, the children tend to the kitchen garden with great care. A part of their midday meal is made from the vegetables and herbs grown in the garden. This has come to become a favourite activity among many of them. For the head-girl and head-boy, overseeing all the committees and the different projects being carried out in their school fills them with pride.
When asked what hopes and dreams they have for their school, they beam and tell me that they want their school to be excellent and famous. Though they are about to graduate from there, they want to continue supporting the school and their village for all time to come.
For Aditi who aspires to join the IAS, for Teerth who sees himself enrolling in the Army, for Kaushangi who loves math and dreams of being a pilot one day, for Kishan who has a penchant for engaging in dialogues and who wants to become a lawyer, for Tamanna who is so taken by her English teacher that she wants to teach the subject someday, and for the many many other students who harbour dreams within these decorated walls, Saduthala Primary School is the perfect setting to nourish these.
Walking away from the gates of the school, it doesn’t take a lot for anyone to miss those green grounds and corridors echoing with the laughter and happy chatter of children and teachers alike.
About the author
Sudarshana Srinivasan works at Reach to Teach. As an educator, she has taught at both government and private alternative schools.
Reach to Teach (RTT) is the Academic and Technical Support Unit for the Government of Gujarat’s Mission Schools of Excellence Programme, co-funded by the World Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the State Government. We have been supporting in designing and implementing the academic, community and planning components of the programme