In Kashmir valley, many government schools are setting an example by taking a lead role in broadening the doors of education for the lesser privileged children.
One such school is Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS) in Anantnag district in south Kashmir which started functioning in May this year, bringing the smiles on the tribal students’ faces. The first-of-its-kind school in the area has become a model centre catering to the educational needs of tribal children.
For the tribal students, the school provides great opportunity and they are exploring all the facilities being provided to them free of cost.
Ashiq Hussain Khatana, a 6th-standard student, said that the school is a unique school and he take part in every activity including games and other co-curricular activities. “We get all the facilities free of cost and we study happily,” he said.
Another student Muneera Jan from Marhama Bijbehara said they had never thought they would be enrolled in such a government school and they are enjoying being there.
“Our warden mam is not only just a teacher but like a parent. She treats us like her own children. We do not miss our home as she is always there for us,” she said.
With the start of this academic year, the students said “many parents who earlier used to send their wards to other schools are now sending their children to this school.
The EMRS was established under Government of India scheme for model residential school, specifically for Scheduled Tribes across India. The initiative is a commendable example of how small changes can be vital in shaping a society, especially when delivered to children, who are the flag-bearers of tomorrow.
Shazia Kousar, Warden EMRS School said that the school is helping poor students in Anantnag and the objective is to provide quality education to Scheduled Tribes and Gujjar Bakerwal community students in remote areas.
The facilities which the school provides include free education, boarding, lodging, uniforms, stationary, separate hostels for boys and girls and state-of-the-art sports infrastructure. The school also has a unique dining hall.
“There are two main buildings in the school both having nearly 70 rooms. All the facilities are being provided by the government free of cost,” she said.
There are two separate libraries for both boys and girls and it also has a state-of-the-art modern computer lab for students.
Shazia said this year they selected 60 students but out of them only 45 students including 13 girls and 32 boys took admission and joined in class 6th.
“Rest of the students did not join the school. However, we tried to motivate their parents but the parents did not show any interest,” she said, adding that the enrolled students are from different zones including Kokernag, Kulgam, Shangus and other adjoining areas of the district.
Before the admissions were started, the school authorities reached out to the tribal community in Anantnag and informed them about the school.
Shazia said earlier people were not aware of the school but now many people are aware and they want to send their children to the school in the next academic session in March.
“All students who got admission in the school are in age group of 12 to 14 years. Earlier, they were already enrolled in other schools and some of the students had left their education midway,” she said.
From next year, the school will hold an entrance examination and only those students will be selected who qualify for the test as the school expects more admissions next session.
“We started from basics and students have witnessed a major change since they were admitted. We are trying our best to make the better career of these students,” she said.
Shazia said the students have developed good bonding with her they hardly go home. “When I go to the market or to attend a meeting the children keep waiting for me even they hug and kiss me when I come back. They are just like my own children,” she said.
Notably, recently the government approved Rs 70 lakh for heating arrangements for the school and its installation is under process.
“This is an emerging school and it has come as hope for the tribal students who otherwise do not get good education as their families keep moving from one place to another place for rearing the livestock in forest areas,” she said.
All the students belong to poor family backgrounds and had no such resources to get admitted in schools.
“Besides academics, we organize many competitions like writing and painting. We also focus on all the co-curricular activities which are being done periodically,” Shazia said.
The students are allowed to go home only if parents visit the school after give their consent. The Warden said the students are talented in every aspect. “When they were admitted they were very different,” she said.
Shazia said that the tribal students should work hard and come out as there is a different world waiting for them.
“The parents should also encourage their children to get the education.Even if they have missed their education, they should not allow their children to be like them,” she said, adding “They should come out and take advantage of this opportunity.”
The warden said that the government has been trying its best to educate the tribal students and this is a golden opportunity for such students.
EMRS Anantnag was sanctioned by the Union Government in 1997 and its foundation stone was laid in 2007. The school was inaugurated in 2017 by the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and it started functioning by May this year.
EMRS is one of the flagship interventions of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India and was introduced in the year 1997-98 to ensure tribal students get access to quality education in remote tribal areas. EMRSs are set up in States/UTs with grants under Article 275 (1) of the Constitution of India.