Holistic Education Amidst The Mountains, Himalayan School of Life Uttarkashi
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
Himalyan School of Life is a Private Unaided Primary and Upper Primary coeducation school located amidst the glory of Himalayan Mountains in Singuni Village of Dunda Tehsil, in Uttarkashi District of Uttarakhand State. Himalyan School started its operations during 2013.
Education with a difference
Children living in hamlets close to the school coming from economically poor backgrounds get holistic education with very minimal fees. The school today has over 120 students ranging from pre-primary up to 8th standard. HSL has an Administrator, support staff and 11 teachers. Besides, HSL has a school bus to pick/drop children from 17 villages covering a radius of 12 Kms.
Majority of India still lives in villages. The education opportunity in remote (rural/tribal/hill) area is limited. Several Government and private agencies and NGOs have come forward in supporting the cause of education. However quality and access to education is the major concern as there are fewer schools, fewer committed teachers, lack of proper text books and learning material. Poor standard of education makes it difficult for students to excel and compete with the world outside.
For parents living in remote areas, sending children to school becomes a matter of economics; many parents just cannot afford to send children to schools, if the costs are high. Many villages remain isolated from the district which remains the centre of development. The locational disadvantage of habitats also adds to the problem of children’s education. Villages, particularly in the hills, are scattered and long travel and the terrain become dissuading factors.
Most children are first generation learners. Families do not supplement the education imparted in schools; they seldom understand importance of providing proper environment and facilities at home to study. Lack of adequate motivation also leads to drop outs. Parents are not educated enough to understand the importance of improving self-confidence and self-image to improve the performance of their children. Exposure to mass media is poor; consequently, they remain shy and refrain from undertaking extracurricular activities.
Therefore, the need is to have affordable schools offering holistic education providing children with excellent education, proper career guidance, rounded extracurricular activities and preparing them to build their self-confidence and self-image making them realize that their way of life is in no way inferior to other members of the society.
Education with a difference
Founded by Akash Ganga Educational Society, Himalayan School of Life is the brainchild of Om Prakash Gupta who dedicated his life to spiritual quest and in 2010, decided to work on establishing and practicing a wholesome form of educational life. This idea has actualized today in the form of Himalayan School of Life and is home to over 120 students.
HSL believes in providing holistic education to children where the classroom is not simply in the class but with the scenic and natural world around them. HSL teachers are instrumental in devising “Play-Learning” material from local resources and promote learning through involvement, exploration, creativity and understanding through play.
HSL teaches academic curriculum and also imparts value education and skill. HSL provides children exposure to round their capabilities in creativity, art, spirituality and adventure. HSL also has Early Childhood Education (ECE) based play group, a nursery, a Kindergarten for young children below the age of 6 years.
The Ages initiated its first project during August 2014 with a primary school in a rented building with 30 children and 6 teachers working with minimum infrastructure. The Number of children has now increased to 128 and number of trained teachers from local areas increased from to 11 and HSL now operates from its own premises.
With the support of Parents HSL was able to lease out 1300 Sq m of land and built its own school premises and facilities, this was possible with the help of a local Member of Parliament, and a generous financial grant received by AGES.
We visited HSL facility and were overwhelmed with the energy and enthusiasm of Himalayan kids raised in a natural environment. Some of the noteworthy observations we made during our visit are as follows:
The day started with an assembly which commenced with Chants, recital of prayers offering respect to all the gurus and saints and sages and 10 minutes of meditative silence
The children were very confident and disciplined and respectful, every child wished us no sooner they saw us. Their confidence and warmth was very heartening
The passion to learn, especially amongst girls students, was very evident and gave us a sense that HSL is able to make good social impact
The Sanskrit class also makes children recite verses of the holy Bhagawad Gita. Many students can now recite verses from Chapter 1 of Holy Gita in melodious voices without even referring to any books or notes
Children also undertook one activity period every day wherein they learn various forms of art, crafts, computer skills, etc. Students also attend smart class and benefit through an audio-video based learning
Children have harnessed skills of singing local folk songs and fearlessly perform concerts whenever called upon to do so
HSL is also constantly looking at newer avenues to give good exposure to children, e.g. HSL was in the midst of organizing mountaineering basic course at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) and was working on taking an educational tour to a bigger city.
HSL has generated tremendous amount of goodwill and reputation among parents and villages and has become a social movement in the area offering education to children. Holistic education imparted and its visible impact seen in children.
HSL also provides an open platform to people of all ages to come and experience the joy of holistic learning with HSL children and welcomes volunteers who would like to impart some skills to the students in arts, music, sport and adventure and extends their facility for short stays. In the past, HSL students have had similar opportunity to learn Karate, Origami art, Wall painting, from volunteers from different parts of our country.
HSL Currently charges a low fee of Rs. 500/- per month from eligible students which are not sufficient to sustain its growing operations and hence HSL depends on crowd funding as well as governmental support for its cause. HSL has ambitious plans to build better infrastructure like fencing of school, gardening and sports facility for its students.
This mission is inspirational and is imparting holistic education, a cause worth learning and supporting.