Sunday, May 23, 2004

Education to excel

Scindia School in Gwalior is rated as one of the finest public schools for boys. Rajmeet Singh gives his impressions after a visit to the school.

LOCATED within the imposing Gwalior Fort, Scindia school not only preserves the 107-year-old legacy of the Sardars but also embodies a futuristic vision of education.

The entrance of Scindia School
The entrance of Scindia School

Students at the school are subjected to a tough regimen
Students at the school are subjected to a tough regimen

By the time we reached the school, it was sunset. White kurta-pyjama-clad students were marching towards Astachal, a semi-circular, open-air amphitheatre from where the sunset is viewed. Students gather at Astachal everyday to observe mauna for a few minutes as the sun goes down. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi also stands in the Astachal complex. The place offers a unique way to impart to the students the importance of silence.

The past of the Gwalior Fort, which has been the seat of great dynasties, is reflected in the personality of the Scindians. The late Madhavrao Scindia of Gwalior founded the residential school for boys in 1897 as the Sardarís School. Renamed Scindia School in 1933, the school evolved into a public school and its Board of Governors is now headed by Jyotiraditya Scindia, MP. "It is this diversity and legacy which makes us accept various cultures and societies with ease", says Samrita Jaiswal, a student of Class VII, as we partake of breakfast in the dining hall.

The school is housed in the erstwhile barracks of British soldiers and the teachers live in the residential quarters once occupied by the British officials. As per rules, the teachers have to live on the campus and interact regularly with students. The dining hall, with a capacity of over 700 persons, is one such place where the students and teachers interact over their meals. "It helps in strengthening the guru-shishya bond," says Mridul Verma, a teacher.

What goes into shaping the students as future leaders? "A lot depends on the way one initiates children into the experience of learning" believes the Principal, N.K.Tewari, who has been associated with the school for the past 25 years.

"The school is a centre for developing various capabilities of an individual. We do not accept students beyond class VIII as we need five years to produce a true Scindian," adds Tewari.

The Indian way of life too is inculcated in the students. One finds the students not only greeting visitors with a namaste but also each other and their teachers.

It is a tough life for the students. Each student has to walk for a minimum of 6 km daily as the classrooms and the hostels are located at two extreme ends of the school premises. Other areas of activity like a swimming pool, 21 playing fields and a horse riding club are spread over 138 hectares of the former princely estate. The school is a member of the Round Square Conference and the Indian Public School Conference.

In keeping with the gurukul tradition, a resident housemaster handles around 50 senior students, while for junior classes, he is assisted by a matron. The school has 13 houses. Says Tewari, " Before we admit any student, the parents are asked to visit the school and see the tough regimen the boys are subjected to. We inculcate an ability in the boys to withstand difficult times and come out with flying colours. The boys are not allowed to bring any item of luxury or entertainment from home".

A close interaction between students and teachers was visible in the classrooms. The schoolmasters are not merely teachers, they act as guides and friends. Interestingly, the teachers also get an opportunity to grow even as they are involved in shaping the personalities of their students.

For instance, the Hindi teacher, Manoj Mishra, is not only a counsellor but also trains students in theatre and brings out a Hindi journal. Raksha Siriah, another teacher, has won acclaim in mountaineering and cycling. She also conducts quiz programmes. Interestingly, the room of the principal boasts of a sofa set made by students as part of their vocational training.

The students are also part of Sarvodaya, an initiative for integration of Information Technology (IT) launched with help from the NIIT.

"I have a vision, of each student receiving the benefit of the best in IT education at the Scindia school`85" reads a statement made by the late Madhavrao Scindia much before the IT boom. A modern science block, multi-media theatre and 50 computers laboratories keep the students abreast of latest developments.

Social and community service too get their due importance. The Social Service League, a unit of the school, develops programmes for physically challenged children and orphans. It has adopted the Sansa village in the vicinity for community development and welfare work. The boys were involved in disaster-relief work in quake-ravaged Gujarat and cyclone-hit Orissa.