Vidyaniketan Sishu Bihar, Ushagram Trust

Project Brief: Vidyaniketan Sishu Bihar (henceforth referred to as VSB), estd. 1974, is a school located in the village of Ushagram, P.O. Birnagar, district Nadia, West Bengal.
Project Type: Formal Schools (description)
Primary Focus: to go to formal school (description)

Secondary Focus: other

Area: Rural
Supporting Chapter Contact: CentralNJ
Status: completed - requirements ended
Project Steward: Soumik Biswas
Project Partner(s): Subir Bhattacharjee
Other Contacts: Kasturi
Project Address: , Ushagram Trust,P.O.- Birnagar,,Vill.- Ushagram,
Tel: +91 (03473) 261-084
Stewarding Chapter: CentralNJ
Sep 2008CentralNJUSD 7000
Apr 2008CentralNJUSD 3900
Jun 2007CentralNJUSD 4000

Total = $14900

Vidyaniketan Sishu Bihar (henceforth referred to as VSB), estd. 1974, is a school located in the village of Ushagram, P.O. Birnagar, district Nadia, West Bengal. The school is an integral part of the multifaceted rural community development program under the aegis of Ushagram Trust - a trust that has benefited and addressed the needs of the local community for nearly three decades, in its vast action-area encompassing about 14 villages in the Nadia district.

Catering to the target group of children in its project area, and working with a substantial number of first-generation learners in a primarily-agrarian community, VSB was set out to impart a minimum skill-set and knowledge-base (see below), sometimes referred to as functional literacy, to its students. In its present state, the school has come a long way from mere functional literacy; it has developed adequate infrastructure and stability to strive for academic excellence and infusing quality education, in complete harmony with the community and environment of the children. Educators at VSB have experimented with methods of classroom teaching and learning (like group-learning practices), developed audio-visual aides for effectively teaching subjects like Science, History and Geography. The children are regularly involved in activities that help build communion with nature, and are given classes in various performing arts and sports, apart from the regular subjects. VSB also makes a conscious effort to attract more students from the most-economically-disadvantaged families, by offering reduced tuition fees, fee-waivers, scholarships and free books for children from families living below the poverty line.

As of the 2007-2008 academic year, VSB has 479 students on roll from Nursery to class IX. The staff includes 22 teachers, a headmistress, 4 non-teaching staff, and 2 administrative coordinators. The school has newly added class IX in the current academic session (2007-2008), and plans to extend to class X in the coming year.
The minimum skill-set and knowledge-base to be acquired by the children of VSB is stated as being able to do the following independently without much of difficulty:
a) To read and comprehend the main news items of a vernacular newspaper.
b) To read and understand the main columns /data items of municipal records, land records, birth certificates,
citizenship/voter-id cards, bank passbooks or statement, advertisements in print media through his/her mother-tongue.
c) To apply the knowledge-base so acquired in daily life.
d) To earn her/his livelihood by engaging successfully in any trade or vocational occupation taught through the school curriculum.
e) To have general understanding and knowledge about health issues like AIDS, TB, arsenic poisoning, immunization
f) To have general knowledge about socio-political and cultural issues.

The school follows the curriculum (and main textbooks) prescribed the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, supplementing the basic framework by their own methods of classroom teaching including laboratories, teaching aides and instruments, off-classroom activities, nature camps, and vocational training.

Asha for Education, Central NJ, in constant dialogue with the school board, decided to focus on the following major areas, for furthering the cause of underprivileged children in the community:
1) Encouraging increased enrollment of children from the poorest sections of the community.
2) Addressing the problem of low retention of students in the higher classes (by completing the extension till class X).
3) General development and sustenance of the school.

Based on the above goals, several action items have been decided upon, for which funds have been sanctioned for the current academic year:
1) Introduction of mid-day meal for students.
2) Books, stationary and sets of uniform, free of cost, to the students who cannot otherwise afford them.
3) Gradual increment in teachers' salaries on a yearly basis, to bring it to to an acceptable level.
4) Camps for the children, and Orientation/training programs for teachers.
5) Story books for children.

Total funds sanctioned (to be disbursed by August 2007): $6400 (recurring) and $1500 (one-time).
Funds are to be given in 2 installments, amounts of which are to be determined by project stewards in consultation with the school board. The second installment is contingent upon satisfactory site visit, to be done before Dec 2007.
History of the Ushagram Trust and foundation of the school :

Gopal Chandra Chakravarty, the founder of the Ushagram Trust, purchased a piece of consolidated but fallow land in the year 1968 and embarked on the mission of setting up a Tapoban type Ashramic Vidyalaya for children as well as for the socio-economic
development of the people around. A free Primary School was set up under improvised sheds in the year 1974 for
imparting education to the children of the locality, where school-going habits never existed before. This marked the inception of VSB. As a sequel to the
partition of the country, the original residents left the place for East Pakistan and uprooted families from East Pakistan
(now Bangladesh) settled in these areas.

In order to give a practical shape to Sri Aurobindo’s vision of building a community with higher consciousness gnostic
society, Ushagram Trust, a non-political, non-profit-making rural voluntary organization, was formed in the year 1980. The thrust area of the activities of the trust is education, yet the Board of Trustees, from the very beginning, simultaneously took up rural development program to generate favorable response of the disadvantaged community including some long-felt needs of the local people.

Currently, under the umbrella of its education programs, Ushagram Trust runs VSB, 12 Balwadis (pre-school and primary learning centers), and a children's hostel. It also runs the State Open School (Rabindra Mukta Vidyalaya) - a major center for non-formal higher education, the Ushagram Gramin Library and book bank, and a adult literacy program.

As far as the logistics go, a Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator form the bridge between the School and the Trust. The school administration is taken care of by the School Board.