The 10 Rupee Invention That Has Changed Schoolchildren’s Lives
The facilities a school should have is a long list, on paper at least. The ground speaks a very different story.
Government run institutions in even India’s capital city - Delhi, lack the very basic facilities a school is deemed to have. The Aam Aadmi Party, the Government ruling Delhi had allocated Rs 10,690 crore, a whopping 23% of their total budget to education in their last budget. However the money has not made a dent in the state of affairs related to the state of Delhi schools with crammed classrooms, rugs acting as makeshift desks, stinking unhygienic bathrooms, broken fans, broken glass panes, a severe dearth of libraries and even the absence of potable water. This discrepancy shows that reforming the education sector even in Delhi is not going to be easy to achieve. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation requires 23000 desks for all the schools under its jurisdiction, for example, but it has only received an astounding low of 5000 desks, according to Education Committee Chairman Rekha Gupta.
Most government schools in Delhi don’t have desks or chairs. The schools are teaching students the ground realities in a very literal way. Children in several of these schools are forced to sit on the floor as the classrooms have no desks or chairs. 'The furniture has to be provided by the government. It is delayed primarily because elections came in between and then the government changed. Also, introduction of e-tenders might have slowed down the process a little bit more,' Hem Lata, the principal of one such school in Noida, says. She also says that authorities didn't even provide enough rugs for girls to sit on. 'We have bought a few carpets from our own funds,' she says. 'Even villagers have contributed a lot.'
Students face severe discomfort sitting on the floor all day. A lot of them complain of backaches and body pain. “When students don’t have a proper place to sit, you cannot expect quality education,” said Aakanksha Gulati, City Director, Teach for India.
School principals said their requests for necessary repairs and new material take a long time to be approved. RP Meena, principal, Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya No. 2 in Molarbandh said, “It took me two years to get electricity meters fixed in the school.”
And this is just the capital city. Most schools in rural India lack basic necessities and are in worse conditions than the schools in the capital city. The children attending these schools sit hunched for hours, leading to bad posture, poor eyesight and bad handwriting.
Because funds are limited, there is crunch in the availability of minimal requirements like blackboards, books, stationery, desks. During inspections, the school authorities arrange the resources for short time span and the rest of the year the scenario remains pathetic for government school students.
Most people would feel that the solution to these problems could be achieved by tackling the government and pressuring them to fix the situation. While that may be one possible route to approach the issue, the others lie in judicial use of resources and an active imagination.
Aarambh, a non-profit charity based out of and working in Navi Mumbai does just that. It was established as a Community Service Center for marginalized families living in urban slums and village areas in Mumbai, India.
The overall mission of this NGO is to provide educational and vocational skills to underprivileged children and women. The people at Aarambh, along with the marketing company DDB India, have come up with an interesting and unique solution to this problem of the dearth of desks in Indian schools. And would you believe that it only costs 10 rupees?
Introducing Helpdesk, a school bag made of cardboard, which doubles down as a desk. The cardboard is collected from discarded cartons from retail houses, recyclers etc. Aarambh distributed the Helpdesks to schoolchildren in rural Maharashtra after testing out a few prototypes.