One might think the charm of villages is now lost because of modernization, but I was proved wrong. When my cab drove into Barauli amongst the paddy fields, little bumpy roads, mud houses and rangoli designs on those mud houses with white paint, it warmed my heart.
“Our founder was born and brought up here,” says Suresh, the school driver. I was greeted with a garland and guided into the temple located inside the premises of the school. In the sanctum sanctorum was the idol goddess Saraswati (Hindu goddess for education) seated with a book and pen in her hand. This goddess symbolizes reverence for knowledge.
The school is a two-level building with classrooms and labs on each floor. The students put up a small welcome performance of song and dance in my honour. I was touched. Mr Paliwal informed me that they have participated in many inter-school events and cricket tournaments, winning many accolades.
In addition to imparting education, the school conducts skills development programs, such as tailoring, embroidery, agriculture and knitting for village women to help them contribute to their family income.
Having formal and informal education on the same curriculum is what makes this school stand out from others. “During my research, I have observed that people from villages spend extra money outside to learn skills required for jobs. Hence, I included both formal and informal education in the school such that the students have access to tailoring and computers once in a week after school hours.”
More than 70 students from the village have benefited from the computer training facility. Around 23 girls from the school as well as 20 women have been trained in the tailoring unit and now successfully supplement their family income.
“For a child to focus and concentrate, he or she must be healthy. In the initial years, we found many students were dropping out of the school because of health problems. We then introduced a routine health checkup under the community development programme at the start of the academic year. We have a collaboration with Max and Escorts Hospitals wherein doctors visit at the start of the academic year and do a regular check up. Apart from students, villagers too avail this facility,” adds Mr. K.M. Paliwal.
Around 790 villagers hailing from remote villages of U.P were checked for diabetes, hypertension and other ailments. In addition, health awareness camps and programmes are conducted periodically in the village.
Keeping in view his father’s mission, Mr. Paliwal is working relentlessly to raise the level of education at this school. He established a science laboratory and extracurricular activities (music and lessons on Indian Culture) were introduced. Guest visits by students from other countries were also started.
“Initially, the student gender ratio was 60:40 in favour of boys. As the years passed, we started creating awareness amongst the community through plays, one-on-one talks and door-to-door surveys. We realized that many girls were dropping out of school for health reasons, early marriages, and family issues. We had to build a rapport with the families and talk them into educating their girl children. By 2007, the scenario reversed and now we are happy to say that the majority of the students attending school are girls.”
When asked about future goals and plans, Mr. Paliwal responded, “We want to provide an ambulance so that in emergencies we can help the village population with transportation to the nearest hospital. We also want to start higher education in the same school.”
In a village which was mostly backward, the Paliwals have redefined education and provided a path of hope to the women and girls there. Mr. Paliwal laughs and adds, “We believe in the saying that when a woman is educated, the whole society is benefits.”