Nestled in a valley surrounded by tall mountains in Kotdwara, Uttarakhand is Hayde’s Heritage Academy, a school with a difference. Different because the stress here is not just on academic learning but imparting life skills to students so that they turn out into well-rounded individuals. Though this should be the motto of every school in the country, sadly, it isn’t. And that’s why Hayde Academy is different.
Founded by the Late Mahavir Chakra awardee Indian Army Brigadier Desmond E Hayde, the school is being run by husband-wife duo of Lt Colonel (retd) Kunwar Ajay Singh and Rupamala Singh.
The school, which saw its first academic session in 2011 with 87 students, today has 550 students, including boarders. The students hail from Kotdwara and surrounding areas, with a few exceptions like Subir who has come here from Nepal and Priyanka who is a Delhi girl.
Significantly, Hayde Heritage Academy is the first boarding school in the region, a boon for the children whose both the parents are working, and travel long distances to and from their offices.
Indeed, there are many families in Kotdwara wherein both the parents are working and return very late in the evening. In quite a few cases, parents are posted to sister towns and visit home only during weekend. In the absence of parents, children don’t have a support system to fall back upon, and the boarding facility that the school has offers them a safe and secure environment.
“My father is a teacher while mother is a nurse in Rikhnikhal. They put me in hostel here and I too find it comfortable. It is better to stay in hostel than alone at home,” says Allen David, a class 6 student who lives in boarding. Class 8 student Md Ovesh is another boarder. “His father is a farmer in Muzaffarnagar and he wanted his son to have a disciplined life so Ovesh was sent here,” informs Ruchi Thapaliyal, in-charge, senior section. “I am happy here as I live with my friends, the food is like cooked at home and studies are taken care of by teachers,” Ovesh says.
Ovesh is right. The school management takes special care of its boarders and ensures they get enough help from teachers during after-school hours. “Our teachers stay back not just for day-boarders but also for the hostellers to help them complete their homework, projects and even revision,” says Thapaliyal.
The Hayde Heritage Academy is different in another aspect, and that is it has a strict adherence to the teacher-taught ratio. Till standard four, there are two sections in each class while classes 5-9 have one section each. And none of the classes has more than 30 students. As a result of low class strength, each teacher knows each student by name and can monitor a child’s development personally, something which goes a long way in his/her all-round personality development.
The teaching methodology, in each subject, is a mix of experiential and personal attention breaks all stereotypes. There is no rigidity about sticking to textbook and rote learning. And instead of advising weak students for private tuitions, the school holds remedial classes in its premises during after-school hours. At present, 80 students are enrolled for these classes. Regular teachers stay back for these classes, ably paid and supported by the management.
What’s more, the school sees to it that students get enough time for extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. Both sports and music is an integral part of the curriculum. There are a variety of sporting activities including, horse riding and swimming. Till class 4, all sports and physical activities are compulsory, thereafter students can make a choice.
Students are encouraged to complete their studies in school and no excess homework is given to them. “Initially the parents couldn’t understand this. For them lack of homework meant no studies at school. Now, of course they understand, and are quite happy with our system,” says Principal Rupamala Singh. “We encourage the students to engage in practice, not just theory,” she adds.
“Not everyone is meant to be an engineer, a doctor or a scientist; some are meant to be artists, musicians, sportspersons… the list goes on. Parents need to accept and instead of forcing their unfulfilled dreams on kids, they have to let their children their own course of life,” she says.
“Our mission is to provide children a unique, opportune, serene, technologically advanced, harmonious and a complete platform that transforms their minds into complete, competitive, humane, robust and thinking platforms,” says managing director Lt Col Singh. “This alone can give us the dynamic leaders of tomorrow; the leaders who can contribute towards transforming the nation as a whole,” he adds.
With its own rainwater harvesting system in place, Hayde Heritage Academy staff is quite aware about its responsibility of teaching the importance of environment to its children. This is the reason that right from class 1, the children are involved in planting of saplings in the school premises.
“The need for having a good quality school in Kotdwara was being felt since long. Until now most children of Kotdwara and its surrounding areas either used to study at far-off boarding schools or they have been adjusting to existing small school that offer little more than academic learning. But we need a lot more to succeed in life and hope to fill in this gap and reverse this trend of children of the hills venturing out to study,” says Singh. The school has a well-equipped library with over 2500 books to ignite the young minds towards learning.