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.
Ved Vignan Maha Vidhya Peeth (VVMPV) was the first rural school started by Sri Sri Ravi Shankarin 1981. It started when Sri Sri observed some local children playing in the dust near The Art of Living Centre. When he saw that they had no access to education he decided to do something to help them.
A local volunteer was appointed to look after the children to give them basic lessons in hygiene, teach them educational games and to serve them free healthy food for lunch. This became a big attraction for the children and their parents, and continues to date. As the school has progressed, a formal educational structure has been established and the number of students and teachers has increased.
Today this school has become a model for 174 similar free schools that are revolutionising education in rural and tribal India.
Almost 95% of the students are first generation and the school is proud to have a 100% success rate in local exams.
"At this young age my daughter would have been working in the farms. We never dreamt of her getting an education! I am so happy to see her going to school!" - Mrs Savitri, a parent
The students are provided with uniforms, shoes, books, writing materials, bus service and mid-day meals to neutralize any factors that can prevent them from attending school. Yoga, meditation, and creative activities like dance, music, drawing and painting form an essential part of the school curriculum to ensure a healthy body and mind.
The ART Excel is organised regularly for students to help them to handle any negative influences at home. Outdoor medical facilities and a mobile dispensary are also made available.
In order to make students more aware of the political system and inculcate leadership skills in them, the school has its own cabinet. The school children themselves elect the school cabinet. Through this system, children learn the importance of the Indian democratic system of governance in a practical way. The school cabinet takes responsibility for the junior classes and helps with the running of the school.
Emphasising girl’s education and women empowerment, senior students are also taught vocational skills like tailoring, computer training and carpentry and encouraged to pursue secondary education. To maintain the bond between former students and the school, alumni meetings have recently started. Alumni share their experiences with other students and encouraging them to pursue secondary education and their goals.
The alumni group holds regular meetings with parents and children to raise awareness about the importance of education.