The Purkal school is nestled in the Shivaliks, at the foothills of the Himalayas. It has roomy classrooms with a view of the mountains, away from the cacophony of traffic. I could spot birds and monkeys from the windows.
Every year 25 students are enrolled. First the kids go through an entrance exam in which their mental skills are tested. Then their backgrounds are thoroughly checked by house visits to ensure that they are truly needy.
A few girls who have no place to stay, have trouble studying at home or live very far away are housed in the hostel or at the guesthouse. Swami has also adopted seven kids who were rescued during the devastating floods in Uttarakhand. They now reside at the school hostel.
A sign saying ‘Find purpose and the means will follow’ welcomed me as I entered the premises. The kitchen, pottery club, photography club, art & craft club and computer lab, were all awe inspiring and made me want to turn back the hands of time and be a student once again.
I turned around to look for Swami Sir when I caught him addressing a kid who was walking past him. “What are you doing here?” he asked, to which the child replied, “Just went out.” He immediately asked the child to report to the e-laboratory and study. I was curious to learn what this e-laboratory was. There I saw that it was a place where the children learn grammar and painting, and were browsing the internet in their spare time.
“We have various clubs. I’m part of the Photography club. We made a documentary last time which won an award,” added Prachi a grade 9 student.
The students have also been felicitated as best debaters, won prizes for art, sports and writing etc. When speaking to the kids, I was impressed by their fluency in English and vocabulary.
They are known to stand tall amongst various elite schools in Dehradun. Deserving students have been encouraged to participate in exchange programmes with schools in China and USA including an internship at Harvard too. The school’s alumni have been placed in Infosys among other corporates and a few are completing their Masters programmes abroad.
As part of an all-round education, the kids are taken to different parts of India every year. Children are asked to read up on the places they are traveling to and are usually put up at an Army or Navy unit. They are asked to maintain a journal of their travels. This is a process to foster interest in observation and writing.
To promote sharing with others, the school has started a very unique ‘Honesty Club’. Every week each student put Rs.10 each in a small box placed in each classroom. They do so without any monitoring. The teacher counts the money every week, which is then donated. The school’s motto is “Living is Giving.”
The Swamis have moved beyond education and have started a self-help group for women. When the school started, a bunch of women came to Swami and asked for employment. Swami’s wife, who is also actively involved, rented a small house with their own funds. She taught the women how to make South Indian snacks that they sold at the market. The women keen to learn more trades, started knitting and quilting and have turned it into a successful enterprise run by them. Their products are sold all over the world through their online portal.
With birds chirping, pups running around and monkeys playing, this is paradise! Little wonder then that moving here gave the Swamis a fresh purpose in life and opened up a world of opportunity and adventure for so many young people.