This school in Gaya charges waste, not fees from its students
At first glance, the Padampani School in Sevabigha village, seven kilometres from the world heritage site of Mahabodhi Mahavihar, seems like any other school. The school provides tuition free of cost to students, along with books and stationery. What makes Padampani unique is instead of tuition fees, students are asked to pick up waste on their way to school and deposit the collected waste in the dustbins placed outside the school campus, which is later sent for recycling. This unique school also teaches its student to value the environment, practice cleanliness and save groundwater.
“The main objective behind the concept of collecting waste as school fees is to inculcate a sense of responsibility among children so that they are not ignorant of the impact of global warming and environmental hazards. We instruct out children not leave even a single piece of waste along the road on their way to school. Many of them also work for cleanliness and water management in their respective villages,” said Meera Mehta, principal of Padampani School.
“We have 250 students enrolled, from the primary section to class eight. All our students are from Mahadalit or OBC families who cannot afford to send their children to school. Our main aim is to keep the area around the world heritage site clean, as lakhs of tourists from all over the world arrive every year. Our approach has been working and you will not find a single piece of waste lying around the school campus or outside,” said the principal.
The Padampani School started at the Mahadalit village of Sevabigha in 2014 with 50 students, primarily from families of ragpickers. Volunteers of the NGO Socio-Educational Foundation frequented the nearby villages and convinced parents to send their children to the school.
“Gradually children started getting enrolled in the school. We provided them with uniforms, books and midday meal,” said Manoranjan Kumar, coordinator of the Foundation.
“We initially arranged for donations from locals. Some Korean tourists visited the school in 2018 and were impressed with the initiatives of the children and since then, have been regularly donating money to run the institution. We spend all the money on children and improving the school infrastructure,” Kumar said.
“ We not only exert our efforts to keep the environment clean and green, but also continue to create awareness among the villagers to work towards saving the environment,’’ said Prince a class eight student of the Padampani School.
Padampani School at a glance:
Established in 2014 in the Mahadalit village of Sevabigha
Started with 50 students and currently has over 250 students enrolled
Provides uniform, books and midday meal to its students
Runs on donations by locals and a group of Koreans who visited the school in 2018
The school aims to keep areas around the world heritage site of the Mahabodhi temple clean and waste free