Sri Sri Vidya Mandir is the first English medium school in Asia’s largest slum. Today the school has six rooms and classes up to the 6th grade. Despite numerous challenges, such as the children’s difficult backgrounds, unavailability of land and parental indifference towards education, the school has successfully reached out to more than 220 children, imparting formal and holistic education.
Most students have a background of being mentally or physically abused, being involved in gambling or drugs and in extreme cases, the use of weapons. In these circumstances, the school not only delivers formal education but also strengthens the basic foundation of the children’s mental and physical health. The school organizes extra coaching classes and annual medical camps which include a full health check.
Teachers and dedicated volunteers conduct regular counselling sessions together with yoga and meditation sessions to help children and empower them to overcome day to day challenges.
One of the major challenges faced by the school was the indifferent attitude of parents towards education and to instill enough discipline and commitment in both parents and children for them to continue attending the school. To achieve this, the school conducted special counselling sessions for parents and regular parent–teacher meetings. Parents are also encouraged to get involved with the school activities like medical camps and the annual function. This gives them an opportunity to be a part of child’s growth.
“Every day is a challenge and a miracle. I wonder how all the needs of school are met. People walk in and voluntarily contribute for whatever the school needs. We want to give the best to our students. We not only want them to be literates but also complete human beings. We are planning to have a separate vocational training school and a library. They love to come to school now and sometimes we have to force them to go back home!” shares Shubangi Karvir, the principal of the school.
The presence of the school and its activities plays a very important role in strengthening the community as a whole. In the area of the school, Art of Living volunteers also organise de–addiction camps, awareness campaigns, stress elimination workshops and Youth Leadership and Training Programs to bring peace and harmony in the community.
For example, residents started a project to convert approximately 4000 sq.ft.of land which had been used as a dumping ground into a garden. This is now one of the rare spots of greenery in Dharavi.