Sehar Bajwa, a class 12 student of The Shri Ram School, Moulsari, Gurgaon is doing which many even older than her do not think of. She has started a school for rural children in village Bahadurgarh, Dera Bassi near Chandigarh. Named Anmol Shiksha, the school bridges the gap between the bookish knowledge children have and the job skills they need for earning their livelihood when they grow up.
Anmol Shiksha functions as an after-school and classes are held three days a week, two hours each day. One good thing is there is no division between girls and boys so far as learning is concerned as Bajwa is clear about not letting the gender stereotypes creep in. The school was opened in November last year with 20 children, and today there are 64 students who attend the school after their regular school hours to learn things apart from and in addition to what they learn in their academic curriculum. Students are taken in irrespective of their socio-cultural or economic background.
A class in progress at Anmol Shiksha at Derra Bassi near Chandigarh.
Bajwa informs that at Anmol Shiksha focus is on four core vectors: Moral Values, Leadership Skills, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Simplification and Entrepreneurship Development, all of which is taught via hands-on learning through practical experiments, role-play and creative thinking methodologies. “But all these values and skills are linked to what the children are learning in their regular schools, which not only keep the interest of children alive but also make learning wholesome,” she says.
“Ours is an after school, disruptive and scalable learning platform targeted at uplifting rural education. The goal is to help rural children quickly evolve into level-headed individuals capable of making informed decisions and taking on all challenges of life to shape themselves into job creators rather than job seekers,” she adds.
The curriculum was devised by Bajwa with the help of her father, who being a businessman knows what sort of skills are required for turning into an employable person. “I spoke to many teachers and all of them told me that this practice of not failing children is doing the kids a big harm, as while children keep passing the classes, they learn little and have zero employability skills,” she says. “Our education system also produces people with degrees but no knowledge as a result of which they either don’t get jobs or get menial ones. The idea behind Anmol Shiksha is to make their learning effective so that they not only gain skills but turn into job providers rather than job seekers,” she adds, with wisdom beyond her age.
Anmol Shiksha also operates through its website www.anmolshiksha.com, through which it provides a free of cost download of its well-crafted, customised and organised curriculum, sorted date-wise for the full year.
The seeds for the social work were sown in Bajwa when she was studying in Class 9-10 at Welham Girls School in Dehradun. “We were given a lot of social projects during which we were taken to old age homes, leprosy centres, orphanages etc. I worked closely with Asra Trust wherein I came in contact with a lot of child beggars,” she says. “But here I was basically into teaching children how to read and write, it was basically to make them literate,” she says.
In her Class 11, Bajwa visited Harvard Business School for summer camp and there she worked with rehabilitation centre, which not only gave her a great exposure but also widened her horizons. She realised that only making children literate doesn’t serve much purpose. The need was to impart such skills so that they become employable.
Back to India after two months summer internship, she decided to open up a school for children to teach them various skills. “Since I belong to Punjab, and both my maternal and paternal grandparents are living in Zirakpur, our visits to that place are quite frequent. So I decided to open a school there only,” she says.