Jammu, Sept 06: When Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education (JKBOSE) declared class 10th results in July this year, the entire management including teaching as well as non-teaching staff of Channi Himmat Jammu based Naveen Shiksha Kendra High School were brimming with pride. And why wouldn’t they? It was due to their sheer hard work that one of the school students, Ankita Sarthi, a slum dweller, had secured 95 percent marks in the board examination.
As Ankita, whose father works as a mason in Jammu, has set the precedent now, almost all the students of the high school The Rising Kashmir spoke to say they would also like to strive hard to make their teachers and parents proud in the next examination.
Class 10 student Simran, who hails from Chhattisgarh and is presently putting up at Channi Himmat, says, “I am looking for a career in hotel management after passing 12th standard examination. And my teachers are leaving no stone unturned to prepare me to achieve my dream.”
She adds, “When I got admission in this school I knew nothing. But today, my teachers have prepared me so much that I am ready to compete with students of any private-run school.”
Ajay Ahirwar from MP’s Panna district studies in 9th standard. Son of labourer mother-father duo Jeevan Ahirwar and Sonia Ahirwar, Ajay passed his 8th standard examination with 95 percent marks.
“I am sure I will bag a position in the 10th examination. I would like to be an army officer,” he says with confidence.
90 pc school students non-J&K residents
With a total strength of 400 students, at least 90 percent children studying in Naveen Shiksha Kendra High School, run by NGO Sawera, hail from slums of Baaggar Mandi, Maratha Basti, Channi Himmat, Greater Kailash, Trikuta Nagar, and Nai Basti areas of Jammu.
Originally, most of these students hail from different states of India including MP, UP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Haryana, and other states. But since their parents work as labourers in Jammu, the management of the school, comprising retired bureaucrats and other lower-rung government employees, and academicians, through a campaign started the institution. And since its registration the school has been ensuring that no children from the slums drop out of the school.
Samyal Suresh Dogra, general secretary of the NGO Sawera, tells The Rising Kashmir, “to start a school for the slum children was the brainchild of RR Khajuria, former MD, Jammu and Kashmir Milk Federation.”
“In between 1992-1995, Khajuria arranged to teach the slum children within their hutment by hiring some locally available teachers as they were not ready to go to the schools. But gradually when his idea picked up the momentum, he started teaching the slum children from Panchayat houses and temples,” Dogra said.
The NGO’s general secretary further says that in the year 1995, almost one kanal land for the school was donated by one Vinod Bhalla in the memory of his late relatives. “In the same year”, he says, “Khajuria got the school registered with the JKBOSE.”
Retired bureaucrats, PSUs, private firms provide donations to school
Former DGP of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Kuldeep Khoda was among the founding members of the NGO Sawera that runs the school. After Khoda, several other retired bureaucrats, academicians, and other higher as well as lower-rung retired government employees have also served the NGO Sawera running the school for the slum children using charity and donations provided by themselves, other private individuals, firms and PSUs under the Corporate Social Responsibility. The school is currently adopted by Rotary Club Jammu Bahu.
School charges fee in three figures
According to the principal of the school, Rajni Roji Sarangal, the admission fee of the school remains in three figures from class nursery to 10th.
“Since 90 percent of our students hail from marginalized sections of the society, they cannot pay what they cannot afford. So, we have fixed the fee in three figures from class nursery to 10th,” she said.
Sarangal further said that almost all the teachers, 14 in the current session, who are highly qualified, are paid a meagre salary “as they work for a social cause and not for the money.”
“The management of the school works only for a social cause as they aren’t paid a penny. Rather they spend from their own pension for their travel and food,” she said.
As per the school principal, some of the teachers who teach Naveen Shiksha Kendra High School students, are associated with the institution for the past around 2-3 decades.
Suman Gupta being one of them who has been teaching for the past 18 years, says, “It’s true that money matters a lot. But satisfaction matters more than money and teaching these slum children gives me that satisfaction.”
Simro Devi is the other teacher who herself read in the Naveen Shiksha Kendra High School, completed her higher studies further, and later taught children of the same school for around 26 years. She is now living a retired life.
‘It is time to pay back’
Since all the school management members are retired government servants, they say they have earned enough during their time in government jobs.
“We have earned enough when we were government servants. It is time to pay back to society.
“We hardly find anything better to serve the society than to educate the future of this country—students,” one of the NGO members, BS Slathia, a retired PNB manager, said with great satisfaction.