“With a good education the possibilities are endless.”
Lori Chauhan (Principal)
The Garhwal English Medium School –GEMS– is a not for profit, free school for children living in the Garhwal region of Uttarkhand, India. Most children from this area come from extremely poor homes. We started this school as a means to help these children realize their dreams. Our goal is to offer them a world class education so they might pull themselves out of poverty, and in turn help their communities… read on
The Garhwal English Medium School was opened on December 1st 2009 in response to the very poor quality of education in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, and as a means to alleviate the rampant poverty in the area.
It is our belief, one which is shared unanimously throughout our region, that quality education is the most viable means of improving the overall well being of within the Garhwal Region.
Our villagers struggle to make a living. Global climate changes have resulted in less rain fall, unpredictable monsoons, and a drop in the water tables, making it very difficult for a family to sustain themselves from farming alone. As the quality of government education is sadly lacking, most young people have not mastered the educational skills that would help them to win scholarships for higher education or to compete for good paying jobs. Young men migrate to cities for poor paying labour employment and women simply hope they can secure a good marriage into a family where they will not have to labour in farm work as their mothers are doing.
When we opened our school, we had only 8 students, but we quickly grew to include 230. We now offer classes from Playgroup to Class 8 and we will continue adding one grade per year all the way up to class 12.
Why an English Medium School?
Many people ask us this question. It would seem more logical for the children to be educated in their own language. But if this were the case, we would be teaching in Jaunpuri, as this is the native language in our area and it differs significantly from Hindi, yet does not have its own script. If we were to teach in Jaunpuri, then our children would be limited to the Jaunpur region for finding jobs, and would not be able to apply to Universities in India which teach in either Hindi or English Medium. If we teach in Hindi Medium, the children would be limited to a certain segment of jobs and universities within India. Most of their better off counterparts are enrolled in English Medium Schools as India has become a strong force in the global economy, hence English is the means by which to secure a position in the best universities and to attain a well paid job.
Challenges in Education
The challenges of educating our children are enormous. Many of our children have come from government schools and have not been taught basic education skills. Teacher absenteeism is high in government schools, and when they do show up for school, many teachers simply do not teach, or lack the incentive to reach out to the children who are struggling. When our children arrive to our school, many have not been taught the basic skills they should have acquired in pre-school, and can speak very little English. Hence, we as teachers have to find innovative methods for teaching these children the basic skills in subjects such as math and keep them abreast with the class material. Secondly most parents are illiterate so they cannot help their children with homework or provide extra support. One of the ways we address this problem is by providing extra tutoring after school, and English as a Second Language classes for those who require it.
At the same time, about 90% of our children are undernourished. Many suffer from protein and vitamin deficiencies. Every day we are treating our children for all types of diseases associated with their lowered immune deficiencies. Therefore it is vital for us to provide nutritious meals to our children every day and to teach good hygiene practices as part of our daily curriculum. We provide toothbrushes and tooth paste and promote good dental care. We also supply uniforms, shoes, even underwear to our kids, as their families cannot provide these things.
We are striving to offer a world class educational experience to our children. We are not there yet, and we still have a long way to go in achieving this goal. But we are confident that with support from people like yourselves, our volunteers and our community that this goal is achievable.
We are always striving to incorporate new ideas, and looking for ways that we can improve upon what we are already doing. We have a wonderful team of teachers, most of whom have grown up in this region and understand the unique challenges our children face. We also depend on our volunteers who have shared their skills and knowledge with all of us, and have left a lasting impression on many of our children.
How We Support Our School
Sustaining a school of our size is no small feat, and so we have had to come up with solutions for how to manage our running costs. We rely on donations from various organizations, friends and relatives, but we also realize that we need a solid financial base to support ourselves. We believe the best means to doing this is to come up with innovative ways that not only support our school, but support the community as well. One of these initiatives is our goat milk soap project, whereby we have created a small industry which provides jobs to our children’s parents, and provides funds which help run the school.