A school with ancestral sacrifice
The only high school in Belgaon village in Ahmednagar district, that was run in a godown, would have been shut if the villagers hadn’t come together to give 35000 sq ft of land and the ancestral houses on it to construct the school building which is all set to welcome students as school reopens after Covid pandemic.
Crompton CSR Foundation came forward to fund the project which was implemented by Vanarai, that works for environment conservation and rural development.
A primary school is run by the government in Belgaon till standard seventh. However, a private high school named Shivaji Maharaj Vidyalaya, was started in 1993 by an organization. The classes from standard eighth to tenth use to happen in a godown within the village since its inception. About two years back the cooperative society that owned the godown asked the school authorities to make alternate arrangements as they needed the godown. That’s when it dawned upon the villagers that a permanent (pucca) building for the school was absolutely necessary for their wards.
Shivaji Maharaj Vidyalaya is the only high school in this small hamlet in Karjat taluka. The godown space was given to the school management to run the school. With walls as high as 25 ft, voices echoed in the classes which were divided by a partition wall of thin tin sheets. Birds gathered in huge numbers and it was often difficult for students to concentrate on teaching in the noisy environment. The dimly lit place posed many challenges for the teachers and students.
Tin sheets were used to separate the school office from the classes in one corner of the godown. The students had no choice but to attend this school or walk all the way to Mirajgaon, about 6 kms from Belgaon for studies after standard sixth.
Shivaji Maharaj Vidyalaya, though run in a godown, atleast prevented children from dropping out of school after standard sixth. Therefore, when cooperative society claimed back the godown, it was cause of concern for the parents.
That’s when Vanarai and Crompton CSR Foundation showed readiness to construct the school provided there was an open plot for a new construction of school building.
Most families in the village had constructed houses in the field or on the outskirts and their old houses, situated in the middle of the small hamlet remained empty. Sarpanch of the village took the lead to bring these families together to give their land for the school building. About 50 families agreed to give up their ancestral land. The abandoned houses were dismantled to pave way for school building.
Now school building comprising of three classrooms, an office and a laboratory, stands on this land which is an invaluable development for the students and the parents.
The villagers have gone through it all. When there was no high school, they and their wards had to travel to Mirajgaon which is 6 kms from Belgaon on a muddy road. The students would be all exhausted as there were very few transport facilities. Girls would walk through the fields which posed risk of animals and strangers. Obviously, dropping out of school seemed an easier solution to parents. The villagers therefore took the thoughtful decision to give this ancestral land for a school building.
Vanarai & Crompton CSR foundation were involved in water conservation works in the village. The organization, working for sustainable rural development, took the initiative to construct the school with people’s participation, while Crompton CSR Foundation funded the project.
The villagers used their contacts and influences to get construction material at subsidized cost. They worked at the site and shared responsibilities.
The school is all set to welcome students. Common toilets for the government run school and Shivaji Maharaj Vidyalaya have also been constructed. This has particularly benefitted girl students. Lack of proper toilet is another reason for girls dropping out of school.
Belgaon, a small hamlet with a population of 2300, serves as an example of how villagers rose above petty differences for educating the children who are the future of this village.
For Vanarai by Bhagyashree Dodamani