From single-classroom schools to one set in a tsunami-ravaged town, Yatra co-founders, Sanjay and Ravi on their education projects in India
Yatra co-founders, Sanjay and Ravi, travelled to India in March 2016 to view their projects up close and personally, and to receive progress updates.
The first stop on their whirlwind tour was the Faria-Uday School. Opened in 2009, this school is now an established part of the local community. Set in the harsh rural surrounds of the famous Ranthanbhore tiger sanctuary, the school has 120 enrolled students with attendance rates between 80-90%. Construction has now almost finished on the permanent classrooms that the 2015 Yatra bike tour raised the funds for, set around a beautiful Banyan tree. Several new staff members have been recruited to the school, including the new teacher’s leader, Rithika, who is a university graduate from Delhi committed to rural education.
Several of the students from this school have won academic scholarships based on their sporting abilities and now serve as role models for their peers and local villages. “We look forward to the opening ceremony of our permanent classrooms and to building the capacity and example of this school. We again had the opportunity of playing soccer with the students and it is always great to see as many girls as boys flying around the soccer ground and showing off their skills,” says Sanjay.
The next project that they monitored was the single classroom “schools” (learning centres) in rural Udaipur, through partnership with Seva Mandir (via a meeting with their Director Priyanka). Yatra Foundation supports approximately 900 children in 30 of these learning centres, with the aim of equipping remote students with the basic literacy and numeracy skills to be integrated successfully into mainstream schooling.
About 20 per cent of the children have now progressed to such mainstream government educations. “A year ago one of the Yatra learning centres had a very high rate of absenteeism (68 per cent), and we asked Seva Mandir to look into the reasons for this. Subsequently, this situation has turned around, and after discussions with its teacher and the community, this rate has fallen to 11 per cent with better engagement from the local village and its teacher-a great outcome. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Seva and providing ongoing access to quality education to the children of these remote villages, and monitoring outcomes,” says Ravi.
The final destination for the Yatra founders was final destination was the seaside school near Cuddlelore (Yatra Isha Vidhya school), ravaged by tsunami and cyclones but ever resilient, like the fishermen and women who live in this beautiful region. “Each time we visit this school, we are humbled and amazed at the incredible education being offered to our 150 students using state of the art technology and all in English,” says Sanjay, and adds that the school and its students have gone from strength to strength and can now be educated from lower kindergarten to year 10, with plans for expansion to year 11 and 12 in the next year. “We were shown the wonderful library and art works as well as being shown how to use HTML and other tools to create websites! The school offers a hearty and nutritious midday meal to all its students and again enrols its students from the poorest surrounding villages. This school is truly an oasis of education literally in the middle of nowhere and we look forward to strengthening and expanding our sponsorship of its students and teachers,” he adds.
Overall the trip, as always, was inspiring, thought-provoking and humbling, say the founders. Yatra Foundation has come a long way since its inception in 2007, and now has over 1000 students receiving quality education all over India. “Although we have had much success in our first nine years, it will be imperative that we can continue to financially support and monitor outcomes in all our projects over the next 10-20 years. To do this we will need your support and donations, to ensure this journey will lead to transformative change in the lives of these children, their families and communities,” says Ravi.