Mohit Mehra

Stockbroker, Farmer

Back to school

About 50 km from Ranchi city towards Gumla is a village called Dumbo [Pronounced Doom-bo 🙂].

In 1992, my father purchased some land in the village and built this temple. The temple complex also includes a school (Shankar Vidyapeeth) which had become inoperational during Covid. The school is open again now.

In March 2020, I returned to Calcutta from Bangalore to work from home. The option to work remotely also allows me to spend time in the village to engage in farming activities and initiatives at the school. Now I am staying in the village for a few days every month. 

A permanent move to the village might not be possible yet but one of the major deterrents has been partially solved. The village now has much better internet connectivity. Not having a stable internet connection had also been slowing down initiatives that could be undertaken at the school. 

Getting Internet 

I had been trying to figure out who to approach to get internet connectivity. I even cold-called a few officers in TRAI (got the numbers from the TRAI website) and was connected with some folks who worked for different telecom companies. However, the asks never seemed to get to the right teams.

Finally, Devarchan’s father (extreme right in the picture below) connected me with the Ojha ji who coordinates deployment for Reliance Jio in Jharkhand (2nd from right). 

Vinay Mishra (Advocate), Dinesh Oraon (MLA), Binod Mehra, Ajay Ojha, RP Banerjee

The ask from Jio was to get either a wired-line connection or a network antenna that could augment the network strength in the village. Although this might take time, they were able to fix the alignment of the nearest tower setup (5 km away) to boost connectivity. 

At present, the internet speed ranges between 3 to 20 Mbps but is largely dependable. And so, we should be able to start using the internet network to engage the students in learning from sources until now inaccessible. 

The School

Since we started the school again in February 2022, 21 students have enrolled back in the school. Although the age ranges from 5 to 13 years, the students are mostly learning uniform topics with some skill-based segmentation corresponding to standards in conventional schooling. 

One of the students colouring in an owl

Here is the age, gender and village-wise breakup of the 21 students:

As per the 2011 Census, Gumla has a male literacy rate of 63% and a female literacy rate of 51%. Hopefully, we will be able to contribute toward upping this. 

What’s next?

The objective to run this school is largely to inculcate livelihood skills. The next step is to design a curriculum around this objective. At the primary and middle school levels, the focus will be directed toward mastering the following toolkit:

  1. Base subjects: 
    1. Using the internet
    2. English 
    3. Hindi 
    4. Logic & Reasoning
    5. Maths
    6. Science 
  2. Mindfulness of surroundings & cleanliness. 
  3. Discourage substance abuse. 
  4. Teach basic healthcare and body awareness.
  5. Life skills such as social-emotional awareness 
  6. Sports 
  7. Arts and crafts 

Some of the focus areas aren’t directed directly at livelihood skills but can be enablers for focusing on empathy, mental well-being and cognitive competencies. 

Designing a curriculum can be a daunting task given the direct ramifications on lives. Thankfully, Aastha (LinkedIn) who works for the Wipro Foundation has volunteered her weekend time to help create the syllabus. 

Here’s Aastha and me thinking of the curriculum and posing in nice outdoor lighting:

We have picked to work on the following areas over the next six months:

  1. Design the school curriculum.
  2. Enable internet-based learning.
  3. Regularise students of matriculation age and help them appear for the state board exams.

More updates on this soon. 🙂