Mid Day

A Higher secondary school in the Sanderi area of Mhasala block in Raigad is being rebuilt with the help of the Dawoodi Bohra community’s ‘Project Rise’. An appeal for assistance had been made by singer Anuradha Paudwal, whose organisation Suryodaya, has been supporting schools damaged during Cyclone Nisarga in June last year.

Set up in 1998 by Anwar Hajwane and a few like minded people, the school is now run by Prabhakar Narayan Patil (PNP) Education Society which provides education from Std VIII to X, to over 100 students, most of them females from financially challenged backgrounds.

Founder Hajwane, 70, who heads Sanderi village committee was worried about the students’ future. The school is the only one in Sanderi and provides higher secondary education to girls who otherwise had to either travel long distances or be deprived of further studies. Hajwane said, ‘Sanderi and its neighbouring villages have more female children. Except for one time a couple of years ago, our school never got government grants.’

He added, ‘With time, the teaching in our school improved and many female students started scoring over 80 percent in Std X. In 2004, we gave the school to PNP Education Society as it had become financially difficult for us to run it.’ Although the school is being run by the PNP, Hajwane said that the villagers have an emotional connection with the school and some students went on to become doctors, lawyers and one became a nurse.

Classes during Covid-19

During Nisarga, the school lost almost everything including books, fixtures and four computers. The school has five government recognised teachers and two office staff. Since it did not have insurance, arranging funds for its repair became a mammoth task.

‘Parents, even today, are hesitant to send their daughters to school. We did not want to risk discontinuing any girl’s education due to a prolonged stay at home. So during Covid-19, we requested our teachers to visit each village and conduct classes, especially for Std X students. Practical laboratory training was done in coordination with schools in neighbouring villages,’ said Hajwane.

Project Rise’s entry

Project Rise’s Murtaza Hasani, 38, head of the Dawoodi Bohra Raigad community, said, ‘The appeal for assistance came from Paudwal to our community at the Mumbai head office. We surveyed the area and the Sanderi school was found to be most in need. We decided to start the relief work and reached out to Hajwane.’

‘Another reason to shortlist the Sanderi school was that it caters to a maximum number of female students. We also requested female members of our community to have one on one counselling sessions with the female students during one of our visits. Male members interacted with male students. This was necessary to understand the students’ perspective and take their needs into consideration,’ Hasani said.

Project Rise noted points like the need for adequate and hygienic washrooms as well as well lit and ventilated classrooms. ‘We are in talks to get the school a dispensable sanitary pad machine. The number of washrooms has been increased from one to three. Boys will get an equal number of toilets. Separate rooms have been made for teachers and the storage of books,’ Hasani said.

Coming back stronger

The rebuilding of the school, delayed by the pandemic, is expected to be completed soon. Project Rise has also ensured that the school’s roofs have adequate support to prevent them from being ripped off in the future.

The villagers pitched in by arranging contractors and construction materials, all of which were procured and used locally and paid for by Project Rise. The new construction has been done close to where the school was originally located.

‘We are thankful to the Project Rise team. We will provide assistance to the school whenever it needs,’ Hasani said.

After Nisarga, Paudwal had been visiting Raigad and providing financial relief. ‘The Dawoodi Bohra community came forward and genuinely helped in rebuilding a completely devastated school. I am moved by their gesture,’ Paudwal said. She added, ‘I have been supporting schools in and around Goregaon tehsil and will continue to reach out to good Samaritans and trusts for their help.’

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