This is a school whose classrooms have no walls, doors or windows.
The seat of learning — unlike most schools in Bengal — is surrounded by lush green tea gardens and forests. The students here do not have to pay anything to continue with their studies.
Anandamela at Lataguri in Jalpaiguri district is a school with a difference.
So is Dulal Jote Nepali High School.
Teachers of Dulal Jote Nepali High School in Darjeeling district receive The Caring Minds Award for A School That Cares from Rita Sengupta and Dilip Dugar in Siliguri on Tuesday.
Located in the Kharibari block of Darjeeling district, the school has a unique style of taking care of its students. Despite fighting financial odds, the school succeeds in instilling confidence among students, most of whom belong to economically weaker sections. The students dream big and work hard to realise them.
The two schools, which are in two remote corners of north Bengal, were conferred “The Caring Minds Award for A School That Cares” at the first edition of IIHM presents The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2023 North Bengal that was held at Dinabandhu Mancha in Siliguri on Tuesday.
Rita Sengupta, who runs Prerana, a centre for special children, and Dilip Dugar, the vice-chairman of the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority, did the honours.
Kousik Das, a journalist, is the founder secretary of Eso Haat Dhori — a social organisation — that established Anandamela at Lataguri in Kranti block of Jalpaiguri on August 15, 2021.
He, along with some other concerned youths of the area, converted a dilapidated government school building into Anandamela during the Covid-19 pandemic which had halted schooling.
“We have students in the age group of three to 16 years. Six of us teach them so that they can go to the nearest schools free of cost. This award will definitely encourage us to continue our efforts to educate children,” said Das.
As of now, Anandamela has 80 students.
Relying on meagre funds from benevolent supporters, the school currently has six teachers for mathematics, Bengali and English. Additional classes on art and craft, sports and community activities are also being organised to hone the skills of students.
Despite financial constraints, students are provided with nutritious food at the school. Warm clothes, shoes, books, copies and writing materials are also given to students.
“These days, we are facing a major challenge. We need funds to repair the school building,” said Das.
Priti Brahmin, the teacher-in-charge of Dulal Jote Nepali School in Kharibari, a rural pocket of Siliguri subdivision and around 40 kilometres
from here, has a similar story to tell.
Located in a predominately agricultural belt, it is the sole institution in the area which offers education in Nepali medium. Launched in 2013, the institution is on a plot donated by a local farmer and draws hundreds of students from across the block.
“The award that was handed over to us is an inspiration for us and a recognition of our consistent efforts,” said Brahmin.
The school currently has 300 students studying from Class V to Class X, but there are only two permanent teachers who teach language subjects.
In the last session, the school appointed six teachers to teach subjects like mathematics, science, social science and physical education.
“Different organisations and individuals provided us with assistance to pay these teachers. It has helped us. Initially, we had 90 students but now, the number has increased to 300,” said the teacher-in-charge.
Amitabha Datta, chairman of The Telegraph Education Foundation, appreciated the efforts of teachers of both these institutions. “They are passionate about running the schools and thus putting in all efforts. Such concern for students deserves recognition and we are happy to honour them,” Datta said.