Protsahan is silently leading a revolution to change the face of a Noida village, Gejha
At first glance, there’s nothing about Gejha village to suggest it’s anything different from scores of other villages in the Noida area. It is dusty, the houses are nondescript, the people who live here are largely working class, mostly semi-skilled or unskilled engaged in a variety of occupations. While few have some schooling behind them, others have none.
But Gejha is witness and a willing participant in a quiet revolution that has the potential to turn around the lives of its residents, especially of its children. That revolution has many elements, but awareness of cleanliness and hygiene are seen as critical and this is being arrived at through education.
Little Manisha, all of 11 years, says with a determination in her eyes, “I don’t allow anyone in my family to have food without cleaning hands. Earlier, we used to directly jump on the food as soon as it was served. After we were taught the importance of cleanliness at the ‘school’, everyone at my home, diligently washes their hands before eating. Even my 3 year old sister, Anjali.”
The school Manisha is referring to has been setup by Abhay Singh, a retired Chief General Manager of the State Bank of India, under the name Protsahan. He set up Protsahan when he found children playing on the roads, getting into bad company, bereft of motivation and direction. His travels to different areas, to enlighten people about various loan schemes in remote and mostly rural areas, brought home to him another disturbing fact.
“While I was in State Bank I used to take interviews of different candidates especially from the rural, remote areas. I found those candidates having good written skills but had weak communication skills. This was making them unable to crack any interview and to get any suitable job.” He resolved to do something about it when he realised that the children, belonging to low income families, had parents who probably lacked the motivation themselves to send their children to school.
So Protsahan was born as a “motivation school for under privileged children who have no education because their parents cannot afford to send them to any school. It is also for those students with low self esteem, who wish to excel in their life but never get the required motivation and support from the family and the society”.
Protsahan-Ek Pathshala to give it the full name, provides free basic education to the children of Gejha and surrounding villages. Basic education meaning teaching children the 3Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic. The idea being that armed with this base knowledge, the children would be able to get admission into government schools.
Currently, the school has 300 local children in attendance and works in two shifts: 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm. The school is flexible allowing children from the morning session, to also attend the evening session to get their doubts cleared, or simply to practice what they learnt in the morning.
“We love to come to this school and enjoy learning here,” said Shilpi, one of the students at Protsahan. “Our teachers are very nice and supportive. We also come on Sundays to study and ask questions. They never refuse and support us a lot.”
It’s not only about education
Children in Protsahan are also engaged in other creative activities like sport events, quiz competition, picnic and recreational programs in the local parks. Every week, yoga classes are organized and a lady from the nearby apartment visits the centre to teach them Yoga.
Hope Rappa is a volunteer from England and finds the attitude of the children positive and encouraging. She said: “The school gives them the space and environment to know that they can become something and each one of them will become something. I help them in English lessons and if possible, will try to raise funds for this school. I would also like to inform others about this school.”
Regular cleaning campaigns in Gejha village are organized in which students, teachers and other volunteers take active part. Every year on 2nd of October, a quiz competition and essay writing is held on Mahatma Gandhi’s life and values. Students from 5 different schools are invited to take part, bringing in a level of competition.
Abhay Singh’s former employer SBI, and IFCI help the school run with funds they provide. Some of the teachers are paid, most are volunteers, a few from the village, others from areas nearby who find satisfaction in helping these children build a future.
Future plans for the school include a van carrying books, study materials and stationery that will visit construction sites where children of labourers while away their time. The hope is to gradually bring them into the education stream and of course, motivate their parents to allow their children to have a future.
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