Nurturing Community as an Equal Partner for Student Learning
The MCD Primary Co-Ed School in Jeevan Nagar was founded in 1967 in a shed structure. Historically, children of migrant workers and daily wage labourers have studied in the school. Not very long ago, the community which comprises illiterate parents, didn’t value education for their children. As a result, there was a general lack of discipline which created several challenges both inside and outside of the school. Student attendance was irregular, students did not wear their school uniform. They used to randomly walk in and out of school to get their bags or lunches. They were also aggressive. There was a liquor shop right next to the school and parents themselves used to walk in drunk. The school has a lawn which served as a park for the community and it was a drunkard’s favourite spot.
But the situation has changed since Mrs. Rekha Saini, the current headmistress, joined in 2017. Following is a glimpse of her work in building a joyful and safe environment for her students, one which now they say they don’t want to miss a day of.
Since Ma’am has joined the school, the team heavily invests in the community. Ma’am is often part of these interactions too.
Rekha Ma’am has built the teachers’ mindset that before teaching the students, one must know them first. This is enabled by frequent community visits by teachers and weekly visits by the community worker. The School Management Committee works effectively to reach out to parents, convey the messages and spread awareness about everything, from school uniform, hygiene to irregularities in attendance and upcoming PTMs.
The community officer is at the gate to welcome the students into the school in the morning and at the end of the day as well, quickly chatting with the parents about anything that needs attention.
The day begins with an energising assembly which consists of prayers, national anthem, quizzes, relevant announcements and PT led by students, teachers and Rekha Ma’am all together.
Once the day starts, Rekha Ma’am spends the first half in classrooms observing the teaching and learning practices. This leads leads to 1-1 support for teachers to make sense of the student data and draw pathways to enhance student outcomes.
Rekha Ma’am also teaches frequently in different classrooms. She feels that time spent with students is very important and this allows her to develop relationships with her students.
Parents are regularly invited to be part of Kamaal ki Class and Chai pe Baatcheet where they get to observe classes, see their kids raise their hands to respond and speak in English. This leaves them teary eyed and impressed. This automatically leads to engaging conversations with teachers about children’s progress and how they can contribute to the learning process.
Teachers help the parents develop and design vision for their children, student itinerary at homes, different parent activities to get them acquainted with the children (required because of parents’ long gruelling working hours), their behaviour and even the language used in the household.
Rekha Ma’am spends the second half of the day in administrative tasks. This includes paper work and finance, planning and delegation of duties & teacher training, school maintenance, liasioning with the administration for resources and more classrooms (her current focus), sometimes ensuring the student benefits reach their bank accounts and parents are able to open these accounts – a challenge in case of limited resources.
All these efforts have led to the community and school becoming very close knit. A cultural shift has been observed in school. The school is recognised as the best in ward 143 in Delhi. Parents scramble to get their children enrolled in the school, even willing to move their kids from private schools. Students who got enrolled in the school during the pandemic have not left. The liquor shop is no longer next to the school and the movement of parents and community members inside the school is regulated. Parents have donated water cooler to the school.
Attendance touches 90% everyday and students are always engaged and happy. There are less instances of aggression. The print rich environment, activity based learning, co-curricular and cultural activities ensure holistic learning.
When asked what keeps Ma’am going, she says that she is ready to turn any stones for her students. She believes that as the institution’s head, her commitment and work has to be visible to teachers, community and the students. The relationships she builds as a result will be key to drive the team and the community and build her students’ potential.
Since times long gone, there have been many education leaders like Rekha Ma’am who have led improvements in their schools. It is time we start acknowledging their contributions and ensure that they have the required support. Only then, we will be able to solve the educational inequity challenge at scale, with speed and sustainably – giving all our children a future they deserve.
This photo essay is produced in collaboration with Peepul. The featured school is one of the three ‘proof-of-concept’ schools that the organisation runs in partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Peepul works towards transforming learning in government schools, so that children of the poorest of the poor are given an excellent, holistic education.