It wasn’t a long time back when the Nawli Zilla Parishad school in Risod taluka of Maharashtra’s Washim district was struggling to keep itself alive and was one the verge of being shut down. The headmaster of this school Narayan Garde told The Indian Express that until last year he was struggling to keep the school open with classes from 1 to 8, having just four teachers for its 145 students. Back then, there was a fear that many students might drop out of the school. The fact that drop out rates were consistently increasing in Zilla Parishad-run schools across Maharashtra made the situation more concerning for him.
“Every year, over 2 lakh students leave schools run by the zilla parishad and government, and opt for private and English-medium schools,” says Nand Kumar, principal secretary, school education and sports. At one stage, it looked like the school will be shut down soon but that’s when Garde along with four other teachers of the school decided to take a stand and do something different. 12 months later, the school now is full with 415 students.
“Our school neither had teachers nor proper infrastructure, hence those who could afford it sent their children elsewhere. But we realised it was important for the school in our village to stay open because we were spending a lot on private education and it’s not always possible to send children elsewhere. That’s when we decided to do something,” says Jaisingh Baagad, a Nawli resident whose son studies at Bhavana Public school in Risod.
The village has a population of just 2000 people and it was in May 2016, that the education department appointed five teachers: headmaster Garde, Subhash Sadar (52), Krishna Pallod (33), Rahul Sakharekar (31) and Gajanan Jadhav (36) after villagers protested. Congress leader and legislator Amit Zhanak, who contributed Rs 1.5 lakh from the MLA fund, says, “I appreciate the work done by the teachers but I would also credit this success to the residents of Nawli village. They protested to save the school. They understand the value of education. They have done something the state government should have done.”
The reasons behind this success were the innovative ideas that were implemented by the school administration. “Ours is a Marathi-medium school but we have started spoken-English classes. Also, students are trained for competitive exams, such as UPSC and MPSC. Every month, we conduct a special general knowledge test. We have also introduced an e-learning system,” Garde concluded by saying.