Monday, 30th October 2017

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Xmas gift for West Garo Hills kids: A new-look school

Crowd-funding campaign in Diwali to renovate school results in a new look just before Christmas

By Our Correspondent in Shillong
  • Published 24.12.18, 3:19 AM
  • Updated 24.12.18, 10:07 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
The bright and colourful Songadinggre Lower Primary School as it stands now. The Telegraph picture

If the festival of lights ignited hope, the season of merriment brought fulfilment.

A crowd-funding campaign initiated during Diwali to renovate the dilapidated building of the Songadinggre Lower Primary School in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills has resulted in a new look for it, just before Christmas.

Initiated by Swapnil Tembe, the subdivisional officer of Dadenggre civil subdivision, the campaign amassed a little more than Rs 2 lakh to renovate the school.

He was inspired by the gesture of chief minister Conrad K. Sangma who had donated Rs 3.14 lakh to renovate a school in West Khasi Hills earlier this year.

Tembe donated two months’ salary to renovate the school building.

“This Diwali, let us renovate and transform this school to light up the faces of the children of Songadinggre Lower Primary School,” Tembe had posted on Milaap, a crowd-funding platform, via Twitter in November.

A few days ago, he posted pictures of the renovated school and earned Conrad’s praise.

“Congratulations Swapnil Tembe for taking the initiative to serve the people of #GaroHills and #Dadenggre by taking the campaign forward to better educational infrastructure in #Meghalaya,” Conrad wrote on his official Twitter handle.

The IAS officer said, “When I joined as SDO (civil) in Dadenggre, the first thing I wanted to see was the government schools. Every morning we would start early to inspect a few schools. In a month we got a very dismal picture.”

He added that most schools were in the same condition as Songadinggre Lower Primary School. “A lower primary school here would have two to three rooms at the most, two to three teachers and around 30 to 40 children. Students of all classes are packed into a single room. The ambience is non-existent. Aesthetics are foreign phenomena, but the formality of education crawls forward. The word forward is debatable here,” he said.

The dilapidated building that Songadinggre Lower Primary School used to be.
The dilapidated building that Songadinggre Lower Primary School used to be. The Telegraph file picture

Tembe said by the time he had visited most of the schools in the subdivision, the administration had completed a pilot project for a model Anganwadi centre. “After a few weeks, we observed that attendance had improved, the children were staying in the centre for more time and the Anganwadi workers got highly motivated. We thought we should do the same for schools and from there came the idea of adopt a school,” he said.

Under West Garo Hills deputy commissioner Ram Singh, the process of conceptualising a campaign to improve education got under way.

“We named it Project STAR (School transformation by augmenting resources). We had in mind a convergence platform where we can pool in several resources. One of the objectives under the project is to improve the infrastructure in government schools. We thought of crowd-funding and corporate social responsibility (CSR),” Tembe added.

“Many from Meghalaya and across the country had contributed for the project. When we obtained the funds, we initiated renovation and engaged local artists to beautify the rooms and walls. The children were overwhelmed with joy,” he said.