Sajia, Eshan and Sahid Afridi are among 200 students of the Universal Academy School at Nai Nangla who speak fluent English, participate in education-based programmes of the Muslim-dominated village, and after returning home from school teach their younger siblings and sometimes even their uneducated mothers.
This was not the scene three years ago.
Sajia was then about to get married after completing her primary education. She was about 12 then. Sahid had made up his mind to work in the fields after struggling till Class 10 like his elder brothers and Eshan was oblivious to a career.
But things have changed for the better and all are raring to go ahead in life - thanks to the education they received at Universal Academy, a venture of Educomp Solutions, an education company.
"The school, Universal Academy, was set up back in 2010 with the initiative to empower education in the village. It was first started in a rented accommodation in the village and had to face a lot of hostility from the villagers. Today it has its own building and various facilities such as library, science laboratories, playground and band rehearsal classes for the students," principal of Universal Academy G.R. Patil told the visiting IANS correspondent.
Besides teaching English, including good spoken English which acted as an allure for many students, Universal Academy also uses innovative methods to reach out to students.
After a teacher has finished teaching a lesson, one of the students then explains the lesson to classmates who may not have understood what was taught in the first instance.
This helps enhance the knowledge level of students and makes the classes more interactive, said Patil.
The teachers, who come from the village, are sent to workshops to enhance their teaching skills. They also interact with teaching experts who visit the school every two weeks to impart best teaching skills, he added.
Students are taken to several school meets where they interact with students from city-based schools, and this acts as a motivation to study further.
Interacting with other students helps them realise if they are lacking in knowledge or in some other aspect, he added.
"Students from our school participate in cluster school exhibitions, seminars. All this adds to their knowledge," said Patil.
"Parents who initially were reluctant to send their wards to the school, believing it to be a place for religious conversion, later themselves transferred their wards from the other village schools to our academy," Patil said.
Speaking in fluent English, Sajia told IANS: "After seeing the level of education in our school, many students from the government and private schools have joined Universal Academy."
Eshan added: "Whatever I have learned here in Class 6 was never taught in the government school where I studied earlier. I find the education system of this school poles apart from that in other schools."
"Many students have joined our school in order to learn to speak fluent English," said Afridi, 13, studying in Class 8.
Band rehearsals and outings to historical monuments are some of the co-curricular activities in the school.
"We were aware of the poor quality of education in such interior areas. It is shameful that despite there being so many schools in the village, youth were uneducated and had to struggle to earn a living when they went out to seek work," said project head of Universal Academy of Schools Anuradha Sinha.
"We aim to bring out changes in the way education is being provided in the rural areas," she added.
Students are charged Rs.500 a year.
Nai Nangla, with a population of around 1,500, has a madrassa, a government school and a couple of private schools which cater to the education needs of the children and youth of 35 villages located nearby.
(Rupesh Dutta can be conacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
--IANS (Posted on 16-10-2013)