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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

Smart learning at ‘five star’ primary schools in Varanasi

CHANGE-MAKERS -- ‘Mission Five Star Schools’ introduced by the Varanasi district administration aims at transforming the look and feel of primary schools

cities Updated: Sep 27, 2019 18:54 IST
The lush compound of primary school, Sihorawa, in Varanasi.
The lush compound of primary school, Sihorawa, in Varanasi.(HT)
         

Ravi Pratap, a student of Class 5 at a ‘five-star government primary school’ in Sihorawa (north), Varanasi, studies in a classroom equipped with a projector and a computer. Not only that -- science and mathematics lessons have become fun for him, with special educational videos played during these classes.

However, just a few months ago, Ravi had no idea what a smart classroom looked like.

Today, his school has well managed classrooms, new benches and tables, a mini library, a playground, solar energy-operated RO system for drinking water, submersible pumps, multiple hand-wash areas, a lush campus, waste management facility and rainwater harvesting pits.

Also, much to his delight, the classroom walls carry cheerful drawings of trees and birds, depicting the importance of nature.

‘MISSION FIVE STAR’

The turn around at this school came with a novel initiative -- ‘Mission Five Star Schools’ -- introduced by the Varanasi district administration in June, 2019, to transform the look and feel of primary schools and achieve the goal of imparting quality education to children.

So far, 50 primary schools in the district have been turned into ‘five-star’ ones. These institutions have been equipped with facilities that place them at par with any good public school. They have also introduced teaching methodologies aimed at generating interest among the students.

Varanasi is the first district in the country, said officials, to have 50 ‘five star’ government primary schools. They said they had set a deadline for upgrading facilities at 1,000 schools of the district by the end of this year.

“Apart from these 50 schools, we have a set a target to add 200 more to the league of ‘five star’ institutions by November 14, this year. Work is on to equip these additional schools with the best of facilities, including libraries, smart classrooms, furniture and solar energy powered RO systems,” said young IAS officer Gaurang Rathi, who is posted as the chief development officer of Varanasi and is the brain behind ‘Mission Five Star Schools’. “With an aim to improve quality of education at primary schools, we started working on this idea in June, this year,” said Rathi.

He also credited district magistrate Surendra Singh for the success of this exercise. “Our mission became a reality because of the keen interest taken by the district magistrate and the guidance he provided to the team,” said Rathi.

FUNDING THE TRANSFORMATION

Rathi said it took around Rs 2.5 lakh to turn a primary school into a ‘five star’ one. “Computers, new benches and tables, ROs, hand washing areas and facility upgrade -- together all of it ends up costing around this much. For these 50 schools, we arranged money though Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds and gram panchayat funds,” he said.

Rathi said that the National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO) provided a CSR fund of Rs 4,20,75,500 to upgrade facilities in schools across the district. “Out of this, Rs 24 lakh was utilised in buying computers and furniture for schools. The remaining amount was used for adding facilities such as projectors and improving infrastructure at 554 other schools in the district,” he said.

USE CREATIVE IDEAS: DM TO TEACHERS

District magistrate Surendra Singh said the purpose of ‘Mission Five Star Schools’ was to bring smart learning and quality infrastructure to primary schools. “Initiatives like ‘mini library’ are ushering in positive changes. children sit there and learn with interest, using the special kits that we have arranged,” he said.

Singh said that teachers had been asked to use innovative ideas to generate interest for the subjects taught among the students. “Teachers have also been instructed to organise weekly quiz competitions. We also feel that every two months, a quiz competition should be organised with a private or convent school of the area (as a participant),” said Singh.

The schools have also been provided with 508 learning videos prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the SCERT.

“We hope all these facilities will help improve the quality of education at primary schools. Teachers should use the facilities as a platform to restore the glory of primary schools,” said the DM.

ENROLMENT FIGURES UP

Meanwhile, ‘Mission Five Star Schools’ has begun showing results. Teachers said that enrolment at primary schools was increasing. “In the last academic session, there were 243 students in our school. This figure has increased to 265 this time,” said Dileep Patel, assistant teacher at the primary school, Sihorawa.

“There were 30 children whose attendance was very poor in the last session. Ever since the school was upgraded to a ‘five star’ institution, children attend classes regularly. Their attendance has improved,” he added.

Shahil and Annu, two Class 4 students at the school who hadn’t been regular earlier, said they don’t like missing lessons anymore. “Our sir teaches us using a projector. I like that,” said Shahil, adding that he understood basic science lessons faster and better now.

Some of the other institutions that have benefitted through ‘Mission Five Star’ are primary school, Bhatsar, primary school, Phoolpur, and primary school, Pindara.

Overall, the district has 1,368 primary schools.

First Published: Sep 27, 2019 18:54 IST

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