While a student’s low attendance is usually followed up by a letter to their parents and a possible deduction of marks, teachers at Ramji Assar Vidyalaya (RAV) School in Ghatkopar have gone the extra mile to ensure that their students attend school regularly.
After arranging for a dedicated BEST bus to ferry students living far away, teachers are also paying for the students’ autorickshaw fare from their own salaries.
After a sharp decline in attendance of over 51 students in the last two months, school authorities went to students’ homes to find out the reason for their absenteeism. They were surprised to find out that most of the students were living in Govandi, about 7-km from the school, and their parents were unable to afford the high transportation fare, making students hesitant to attend daily classes.
Ila Sompura, one of the pre-primary teachers said, “When I saw that the parents were working and struggling for their daily bread and butter, I realised that they could not afford the fare for transportation, which made the students bunk school.”
While eight students were shifted from Ghatkopar to Govandi due to the demolition of their homes for Metro rail work, the remaining 43 were already residing in Govandi. All 51 had been attending school irregularly. Hence, the school with the help of NGO Harihar Prathistan made arrangements for a BEST bus to pick up and drop students, with the NGO bearing all costs.
Talking to MiD DAY, Dilip Bhanushali, president of Harihar Prathisthan said, “It was very disheartening to know that the students were unable to come to school because of high fare of BEST or other transportation. We decided to approach the BEST depot in Shivaji Nagar and get their help for these students. We are very thankful to Shivaji Nagar BEST depot for providing the bus service for the students.” The NGO pays the transport fare of all 51 students studying in RAV School.
Apart from providing the BEST service, teachers of the primary section from Std I to Std IV also contribute Rs 1,000 each from their salary to provide a one-day fare of Rs 650 for 15 autorickshaws that ply the students from different areas of Ghatkopar. The NGO members who made their efforts in providing BEST bus service to school are trustees Radha Gori, Sunil Bhanushali, Kanti Mange and chairman of the NGO Rameshbhai Dama.
Kalpana Mehta, principal of the school, said, “Harihar Prathisthan requested the Shivaji Nagar BEST bus depot several times to provide the service of BEST bus for our students living in Govandi. We are very thankful to the NGO as well as the Shivaji Nagar BEST bus depot who provided one bus for our children, whose attendance and academic performance have now improved a lot.”
Sumit Butia (13), a Std VIII student living in Govandi, said, “My parents told me to thank the people who helped me reach school every day. My parents are vendors and cannot afford the transportation fare that has increased, which is the reason I used to remain absent most of the time.”
Aarti Butia (14), a student who had shifted from Ghatkopar to Govandi said, “It became difficult for me to travel all the way from Govandi to Ghatkopar. It was easier when we were living in Ghatkopar. We had to shift because our house got demolished due to Metro rail. I remained absent because we cannot afford the transport fare and also it was tiring to wait for an hour and half for BEST buses which were crowded sometimes. Now BEST bus has made everything smooth for us.”
BEST bus fare
>> Per student Rs 150 per month
>> Per student Rs 750 for six month pass.