Children's Day this year brought a special gift to kids in Rajasthan's Barmer district - a school they had lost to unexpected floods in the Thar desert in August 2006.
After waiting for 15 months, the children of the upper primary school in Nagarda village of Barmer district, over 500 kms from the state capital Jaipur, finally had something to applaud on Nov 14. They not only got their school back but with it some modern facilities that were not there earlier.
"After floods, we had been studying under a tree or inside a tent," said Ramesh, a student who is happy to be back inside a "proper" school building.
Kamal, another student, was equally glad. "I am enjoying it; now it has even better facilities than before."
The school was reopened on Wednesday, when India celebrated Children's Day.
The upper primary school at Nagarda, which is one of the few rural institutions that are the only source of elementary education in the extreme conditions of the Thar desert, has been reconstructed in partnership with a Delhi-based NGO - Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (Seeds).
Founded in 1994 by a group of students and teachers of the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, Seeds is a non-profit voluntary organisation working for vulnerable communities grappling with natural disasters.
In August 2006, unprecedented floods hit the region and destroyed many buildings, including schools. It was for the first time in the recorded history of 200 years that this part of Thar desert, otherwise known for severe droughts, was flooded.
After the floods receded, the Mittal Foundation, CIFF and Seeds engaged with the local authorities and village communities to take up the work of restoring 20 of the worst affected schools.
"By working with the village community on a socially oriented construction process, the Nagarda upper primary school has been reconstructed in a manner that makes this building specifically resistant to future disasters," Nitin S Verma, senior programme officer with Seeds, told IANS.
The school has been equipped with elaborate plinth protection and rainwater harvesting structures. Window grills that would previously give a caged feeling to the children have been converted into colourful counting abacuses that work as educational aids now. The school also has a compound, office, classrooms, kitchen, water tanks and functional toilets for boys and girls.
Verma also said that the remaining schools would be commissioned by year-end.
Seeds, he said, has also worked with village communities in the district and helped in the reconstruction of 300 houses.
The villages in this region are divided in smaller agglomerations of mud and thatched dhanis (huts) that are often not connected by road.
Children here have to walk long distances on sand in extreme weather conditions to reach schools. Water is scarce and construction an extremely difficult task.