Walk into a classroom at Juhu Gandhigram’s Mumbai Public School (MPS) and you’re sure to be thrown off by the brightly coloured walls. Is this really a municipal school?
Nagriksatta Ward 63 Association (NSWA) along with a group of Juhu residents took over the running of the school about five years ago. So while the infrastructure is provided by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), setting up the English medium school runs is the responsibility of a group of social activists keen on giving underprivileged children the advantage of good education.
“The children were only being taught in Hindi and Marathi. Our intention is to offer them an education we would like our children to have at private schools,” explains Sherley Singh, president, NSWA.
The NSWA took over the reins about four years ago, but this year they have seen an exceptionally steep rise in the number of students. “Today there are 600 students from pre-school to the fourth standard. In 2008, there were merely 180 students,” reveals Singh, clearly thrilled by their success.
“It is a huge development. I think it is because of the quality of education we provide. There are many other schools in the neighbourhood, which cater to the same audience. Instead of paying Rs 250-300 as fees, parents would rather send their children to MPS since its free,” says Singh.
The volunteers — teachers from Podar Educational Institution, Teach for India and other Juhu residents — are a committed lot bent on upgrading the school’s standards. They supplement the education provided by the BMC-employed teachers. The volunteers are expected to commit to teaching for a year and come to school everyday.
The NSWA also ensures that extra-curricular activities are regularly organised for the children. “We organised a full-fledged sports day, and an annual day where children performed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
“We also hold film screenings and recently, we showed them Bal Ganesh,” reveals Singh, explaining that the idea is to expose the children to as much as possible.
“In the future, we hope to replicate this at other schools in the area. But before we can do that, we need to get a little more systematic,” laughs Singh.