Sainik School, Nagrota: Goal-setting is a habit here
Know what success looks like and see it clearly in your mind, goes an adage. Students at Sainik School Nagrota, have their goal etched out at the entrance to the institute — a milestone with the words, NDA 2001km, signifying the distance to their next destination. The inspiration has helped many students.
Over the past four years, at least 24 young men have cracked the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwalsa, Pune, exam and joined the elite academy. The residential public school was inaugurated on August 22, 1970, by the then defence minister Jagjivan Ram, with commander NN Seth as the founder principal.
The school has excelled in its role as a feeder institution for the armed forces. Over 800 of its alumni are officers at the NDA and at other institutes like the Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai; the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun; Air Force Academy (AFA) Hyderabad, and the Indian Naval Academy (INA), Ezhimala in Kerala.
Based on Class-12 results in 2018, the school ranked 5th among 24 Sainik Schools across the country. In Class-10, the pass percentage was 100%, but it was ranked just outside the top-10 in a field of 31.
Around 300 cadets have become officers via the NDA. It has produced three major generals, of whom one is serving and two have retired.
Finances a concern, quality maintained
The school faces financial constraints, even as the state government is supposed to provide funds for all buildings required, transport and maintenance of campus, including labs. Providing scholarships to domicile students and meeting other expenditure recommended by the local board of administration are also under it. The government is also supposed to bear taxes.
“As of now, allowances and pension of staff are paid from fee children pay, but we fall short. The school is running on an anticipated annual deficit of ₹1.3 crore this year. Last year, the deficit was around ₹80 lakh,” says principal Captain A Muthuraman, adding that the Sainik School Society provided additional funds. He admits that given the constraints, there is no money left for educational excursions, lab consumables, additional equipment and digital labs
“The school’s financial health is a constraint. To make things easier, a memorandum of agreement had to be signed between the Society and the state government. The latter has not signed it, and the case is being pursued,” he says. “We do not compromise on the quality of education,” the principal adds.
Security a major issue
The school has no armed guards. The need was felt after two officers and five soldiers were killed in a terror attack in Nagrota in November 2016.
The state government sent a proposal from the school in this regard to the board of governance, defence ministry. On March 15, 2018, the board recommended armed guards; this proposal was sent to the army headquarters in Delhi, which sought views from Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur. The command has not agreed with the proposal, as yet.
The school has a 7-foot, 3-km compound wall with concertina wires. “School staff and hired, but unarmed security personnel keep vigil,” the principal adds. Over 700 persons, including 465 cadets and 250 staff members with their families, stay in the school.
Another officer said, “The school has hostels, kitchens and sufficient ration for students. Militants can stage a hostage drama for over a month, causing mayhem. God forbid any such thing.”
Renowned oncologist, three major generals among alumni
Major General Ramesh Raina (retd) is an alumni. Remembering those times, he says, “My journey started from a primary school in Urdu medium in Kashmir to the Sainik School. The initial three months were tough. My alma mater nurtured us into young men and motivated us to join the armed forces. It was more like a family. There is no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and colour. Those eight years were of togetherness and hard work.”
He will be visiting the school this month and plans to present a rolling X-country silver trophy to the best house of the school to mark 50 years of service.
Other prominent alumni are Maj Gen JS Bedi (retd); Maj Gen Mohinder Kumar Sagoch, director general, department of ex-servicemen welfare, MoD.
Dr Ashok Vaid, an oncologist, known for pioneering efforts in bone marrow transplantation also studied here. Dr Vaid was awarded the Padma Shri in 2009 for his contribution to the field of medicine.
The school received the defence minister’s trophy for the maximum entries into the NDA/Naval Academy in 2009. Its alumnus Lt Avinash Khajuria hoisted the school flag on the South Pole in 2001; this feat was repeated by IRS Afaq Ahmed Giri in 2018. It has excellent sports facilities, smart classrooms and an IT lab, among other amenities.
A Class-11 student from Hisar, Manish Kumar, says, “My father is in the army. I also want to crack the NDA exam and join the army as an officer. This is the best school in J&K.”
Roadmap in mind
“We will be celebrating our golden jubilee next year. I have two primary things on my mind. Last year, there were 2,000 applications against 60 vacancies. In 2018, we got 4,000 applications for 85 vacancies. From an intake of 465, I want to increase it to a minimum of 650 in two years,” the principal adds.
“The existing hostels were built 50 years ago. To carry out repairs, we need to build new ones. We have been in discussion with the government for four years. Two months ago, we got a plan. We have submitted a design for two hostels with 400 capacity.”
“The defence ministry plans to induct girl students as well; if we build infrastructure, we should be able to admit girls by 2021,” he added. The Capt, who took over in May 2017, adds, “Sixty-eighty cadets were admitted in Classes 6-9 per year, based on an All-India written exam, followed by a medical examination.”