Developing Agricultural Entrepreneurs, Abhyudaya Global Village School Bawangaon
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
Abhyudaya Global Village School is established on a 10 acre agriculture farm, in a village called Bawangaon. It is 45 Kms away from city of Nagpur in Maharashtra state in India. The school is a unique model for rural education. AGVS was started in 2010 by Dr. Prakash Gandhi with a vision to impart education to village children with an emphasis on developing agriculture-based entrepreneurship. AGVS’ vision is to provide high quality education to children in rural India, to train them in sustainable agricultural practices and prepare them to be Agri-preneurs (agricultural entrepreneurs).
The current education system in India is largely theory based hence not very appealing to the life in rural areas. This causes students to dropout from schools in the early stages of their lives, which leads to uneducated youth that cannot stand at par with its peers around the globe.
AGVS has a different vision and focus and so is different from any other school. This school:
Aims at inculcating, respect and pride for agriculture, a profession though not looked up to in high esteem, but without farmers and agriculture our survival is difficult
AGVS aims at providing tools that help students to constantly inquire, explore, and discover new creative ways of thinking and finding solutions to their problems
Provides hands on experience to students in sustainable farming and entrepreneurship from early stages of life
Encourages curiosity and innovation by allowing children freedom, to explore and analyze solutions.
The Challenges of Rural India
Agriculture is the primary means of livelihood in rural areas. With increasing climate changes and low returns from produce, farming has become high risk and less lucrative preposition. More worrisome is the fact that no youngsters want to be a farmers. Low income in villages, in comparison to, high salaries in cities attracts them to city life. Poverty, unemployment and insufficient amenities and educational facilities are compelling villagers to rapidly migrate to urban areas, leading to problems of fast urbanization. Rural population leaving their homes often live in cities in an environment which is unfit for human habitation.
Development of villages is hence the only solution to this massive problem. It is important that villages should become self-sufficient. Development in agriculture and other agri-business based activities like animal husbandry, poultry, fruit plantation etc. needs to be developed to provide employment to the villagers, in addition to agriculture and also to generate additional income and hence prosperity. This will also reduce rising migrating trend towards cities.
Villagers also need to build self-confidence and collaborate as a team for self-development rather than looking to run away to a more dangerous urban mess for shelter. Any transformational change on this huge scale in rural areas can only be achieved when we start working with children and give them appropriate environment to learn and grow.
With the above foresight Abhyudaya Global Village School (AGVS) was formed as a non-profit, non-commercial institution, with a clear aim to teach children Agriculture and Entrepreneurship to assist in the overall development of the individual and the village, simultaneously, managing education and employment.
Agricultural advancement is possible only by inculcating, in younger generation, a positive attitude to rural agricultural life. Education in Rural school needs to be reinvented from this perspective. The contextual focus of agriculture in science curriculum in primary and middle school could provide opportunities to develop positive attitudes towards agriculture as an industry and potential career path.
Dr. Prakash Gandhi, a visionary, founded AGVS. He himself spent his childhood and completed his early education in a rural area and went on to complete a double masters and Ph.D. in organic chemistry. After 25 years of working experience with rehabilitation and sustainable development as a Senior Environmental Engineer with Western Coalfields Ltd., Dr Gandhi took voluntary retirement, to focus his energy and experience on community development. Dr. Gandhi is the founder member of Vikalpa’s Society for Sustainable Development, the trust under which this school was started.
He was quick to realize that inclusion of two subjects: agriculture and entrepreneurship is the key solution for rural education in agrarian societies.
His vision in his words “Instead of seeing people as mere victims of this system, we need to empower them to take their struggle ahead. It is our vision to see a generation of entrepreneurs’ blossom, who get to work with dignity and equal opportunities”.
Dr. Prakash Gandhi, his wife Madhuri Gandhi, along with the youth energy of their engineer daughter Bhagyashree Deshpande and engineer son-in-law Sachin Deshpande, who left their lucrative professions to dedicate their life in making this innovative cause a success and a model to replicate.
The school is a self-financed and non-aided school. Established on a 10 acre of green farm, young teachers and qualified farmers are teaching children relevant concepts such as soil textures, milk testing, micro irrigation, as well as English grammar and vocabulary through experimental learning. The school is farm land equipped with demonstrations techniques, technologies, machineries, processes related agriculture including horticulture, animal husbandry etc.
The school began in 2010 with only 28 students; AGVS is currently having 269 students coming from 18 nearby villages in Saoner taluka. AGVS has arranged buses to pick children from remote places and villages around 18 kms, which makes it possible for students to travel to attend school.
Over the past 8 years, the school has seen a sharp increase in the number of girls attending school after it had subsidized annual fee to just Rs 2000/- per girl student. Currently, the ratio of boys to girls is almost equal. The mind set of parents has considerably improved and are willingly sending their children to this school.
The school runs classes from Nursery to 6th standard, and every year one higher standard would be added, which will also mean increasing the number of teachers. AGVS currently has staff strength of 17 teachers coming from nearby villages who are passionate about their work. Teachers are trained separately so that they teach children in a practical, fun way that makes learning easy and fun. The relevant and best suited content from various text books from NCERT, Maharashtra State Board and Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education is selected for teaching and learning in this school.
The school runs from Monday to Saturday and students who require extra classes or help willingly come on Sunday for extra guidance. AGVS focuses on an activity-based holistic yet experimental learning. With emphasis on activities based on farming, AGVS ensures that children are oriented toward agriculture and entrepreneurship. A select list of regular activities which are part of AGVS practical learning:
a) School of Creativity: AGVS has a partnership with another organization in Nagpur. Every Thursday, creative activities are conducted for children to express themselves through art and craft to enhance their emotional quotient. There are 40 activities for every child over the year and children are given due freedom to express themselves and bring out their talents.
b) Agri Training: is conducted for children where they are taught to celebrate the joy of creation. They are given first-hand experience on agriculture, seed sowing, production of organic pesticides, counting plants, checking density, plucking and harvesting, conservation of natural resources and seed conservation. Older students are also taught mechanization and technology used for farming making medicines for the crops, sowing seeds, planning crop rotation etc.
c) Mauj Masti Hour: Every subject is taught differently through innovative teaching method, for instance children are taught motor skills by sorting grain, counting using bricks and seedlings, learning geography of South India was taught along with preparing local dishes as Sambar(local south Indian soup) on an open fire.
d) Arthamanthan: AGVS celebrates enterprising entrepreneurship known as Arthamanthan, where children buy raw materials to make crafts and other products. They learn negotiation skills and handling a commercial transaction bargain and are also taught to understand the difference between the rural and urban markets. They also gain knowledge about finance and the concept of forming a company and start agriculture farming. AGVS focuses on Money Week where students are taught cash identification, banking and cash transactions.
e) Anand Jatra: During the month of January every year, AGVS organizes an annual enterprise fest, where children sell the crafts they create. They make products such as paper files, paper and cloth bags and other utility products. They have stalls with traditional games and science and farming experiments. Children get a good exposure on selling skills, management of income generation and cash management.
f) VNIT Farm Equipment Exhibition: Children from AGVS are taken to this annual exhibition to expose them to the outside world and to the upcoming technology displayed and demonstrated at this exhibition. They also get exposure to the low cost, low weight and low maintenance farm equipment.
g) Agro Vision Agriculture Summit: A batch of select 5th standard students are taken to Nagpur every year to attend this summit, where children learn about agriculture and related fields such as animal husbandry and other developments in the world to give them wider perspective.
h) Hurda Party: they attend this party where they learn to sow and plough plots of millets (jowar)
i) Mother's Health Check-Up: AGVS arranges for Haldi-kumkum (a traditional Maharashtrian ceremony) for the mothers of students. The mothers along with celebration also undergo health check-ups and are taught with nutritious recipes that they can prepare with local ingredients and available resources. This is done in collaboration with Wockhardt and Shakti Peeth.
j) Sports Week: AGVS conducts a sports week where students play local traditional sports such as Langdi, Kabaddi, Kho-kho, Kushti and Malkhamb etc. This agro-centric school is a community supported school which aims to become a self-sustainable model in the coming years through its various farm based income generation activities.
We visited Bawangaon village where AGVS is located. The school is surrounded by lush green farms. A typical day at AGVS begins with a school assembly, which has different arrangements on each day. We observed one such assembly where children sit in concentric circles and recite strotras and shlokas (hymns). They also have singing, silent yoga assemblies.
There are 15 classrooms all decorated with students’ artwork. The classrooms are sunlit and airy. The children seemed to love coming to this school. We observed the School of Creativity activity. Students were drawing and coloring a picture on a theme.
We also visited the fields where vegetables and fruits such as brinjal, tomatoes, onions, corn, banana, lemons etc. were grown. The students were explained the concept of crop rotation as a healthy concept to replace minerals in soil, children were also taught the concept of keeping distance between the plants to make them easily accessible, to remove weeds and to look after plants better. Some of the students were getting exposed to the seed sowing where they were shown how to maintain distance in planting seeds. AGVS also has an oil press mill on the farm.
Cows are an intrinsic part of rural life. Hence the school has a cowshed with 26 cows. Other than milk they use cow dung for manure and making medicines for plants and all of this is observed and picked up by students on a daily basis.
AGVS has all the features like academics, sports, co-curricular activities, but what makes it stand out from the rest is the practical teaching and agriculture experimentation.
The school charges a modest annual fee of Rs 4,000 ($ 60) for boys and Rs 2,000 ($ 30) for girls. The school’s annual running cost is around Rs30 lakh. The school sustain itself with the help from some benevolent donors, significant part of income generated by Mr Gandhi’s consultancy firm is utilized towards this venture and agricultural produce and the oil mill also contributes to some part of the school expenses.
AGVS is a non-aided school and does not receive government grants or funding. Several companies and individuals have encouraged AGVS in the past. One such company M/s Pix transmission has provided a solar panel for power and water supply, which helps containing operational cost. One of the institutions has volunteered to sponsor salaries for 6 teachers.
To augment newer sources of income AGVS is in the process to initiate a weekend Gurukul to teach city children and their parents about plants and farming, enjoy and relax in the peaceful environment.
Gradually AGVS wants to augment resources such as dairy development, animal husbandry, oil production, bee-keeping, horticulture, sericulture, end-to-end agriculture, homestay facility etc. this would make the school self-sustaining and provide hands on experience to young agri-preneurs.
In the words of Dr Gandhi “We foresee educated and skilled children who pass out from this school undertaking farming as a prestigious profession, and becoming agri-preneurs and in the process become active members of our rural economy”.
One such school for every 10-15 villages in a cluster with strength of 500 students and 30 teachers would need 65,000 schools to cover all the villages of our country and this will impact over 33 Million children and can change the face of rural economy of our country. Mr Gandhi believes that one seed sown can provide a thousand more seeds, making the process scalable and continuous. Truly an innovative cause, worth supporting.