Lucknow: Spreading smiles through joyful learning

Praiseworthy initiative: A primary school in Nishatganj has been transformed through small but meaningful changes.

Updated: Sep 10, 2018 12:26:16

By Rajeev Mullick

Students of a primary school in Nishatganj playing games. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)

For eight-year-old Amreen Bano, going to school has become fun all of a sudden. Earlier, happy to skip classes citing petty reasons, Amreen and many others like her are now regularly attending classes at the primary school located in the fourth lane in Nishatganj, Lucknow.

And why not? The campus buzzes with activities and children are seen happily engaged in knowledge sharing -- be it at the library or the newly set up computer lab.

There has been no major overhauling in the school’s infrastructure and yet everything -- facilities and systems -- is functioning much better.

This is largely due to the change brought about in the mindset of teachers and students by ‘Spread Smile’, a non-government organisation. Members and volunteers of the NGO have been working tirelessly to improve the school’s ecosystem and make learning joyful.

“It was in July 2017 that Spread Smile first entered the school. What we found was just one functional room, 33 students and two teachers. Most children were sitting on the floor. Our first initiative was to help the administration get the floor repaired. It was just the beginning,” said Swati Srivastava, director, Spread Smile.

Just a year later, the number of students coming to this school has crossed 70.

The NGO purchased 25 sets of desks and benches, got several other rooms in a working condition, and helped introduce the concept of ‘joyful learning’ in everyday teaching.

“We got three locked rooms on the first floor and one on the ground floor, which had been useless for over 10 years, opened after bureaucratic intervention. The new classrooms were cleaned and electricity connection was restored. Volunteers also arranged a few desktop computers and projectors to set up the computer lab,” said Srivastava.

Studying in the computer lab, Class 5 student Md Ameen and Class 1 student Md Mamin say it is fun to type on the keyboard, make drawings and play games. They especially like learning rhymes through the projector installed on the campus.

Spread Smile has also helped turn the dirty and barren ground into a clean and green campus where chick curtains shield students during summers.

“With no cleaning staff around, initially, volunteers picked up the broom. Later, helpers were appointed for daily cleaning. We also changed the way midday meal was served and eaten. Earlier, students sat on the floor and didn’t wash hands before eating. Now, we ensure that all plates are rinsed with water and students are seated properly. Mandatory hand washing before and after meals has also been introduced,” said Vaishali Bajpai, a Spread Smile volunteer.

Students learning rhymes through a projector installed on the campus.

To instil a feeling of pride among students, chairs have been named after prominent personalities such as Chanakya, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and more. “So when students sit, they are reminded to live up to the reputation of these personalities,” she said.

The school also takes care of the students’ health. “A doctor and psychologist visit the campus, medicines are distributed from time to time and injuries and allergies are taken care of. As these children live in slums, they are prone to several health problems. A dentist’s visit is also ensured along with free distribution of toothbrushes and bathing soaps,” said Vaishali.

“Volunteers also visit the nearby community and organise programmes for distributing free sanitary pads and blankets. Hygiene and education awareness camps are also held,” she added.

In addition, extracurricular activities are planned to help the children express their creativity. “Craft work includes diya-making, dustbin-making, creating bookmarks, and needlework among other activities,” she said.

First Published: Sep 10, 2018 12:26:16


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