How An NGO Is Educating Children In The Slums of Bhandup, Vidyadhiraja School Mumbai
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Vidyadhiraja is school that believes no child should be denied the right to education, regardless of their financial status, as important as food for living.
Vidyadhiraja High School and Junior College is a low resource, but highly impactful English medium school situated in the slums of Bhandup, Mumbai and is currently catering to over 550 children from slums and the lower strata of the society.
The School that Dares to Dream
School is the only avenue for students to gather information and acquire knowledge on various subjects. Most children from this school are the first generation learners. Families do not supplement the education imparted in school and seldom understand the importance of providing proper environment and facilities at home to study.
For the students coming from slums their world begins and ends within a kilometre of space around their homes. Schooling is an expensive affair for such families. Due to lack of education they land up taking menial jobs that do not pay well. Although children may be talented and may want to study, they do not have resources or a platform to showcase their skills. They often remain wandering the streets or indulge in illegal activities.
At Vidyadhiraja, no child is is denied right to education due to their financial constraints. The school leaves no stone unturned to find sponsors to support such children who have the will to study and dream big, but cannot afford to pay school fee.
Vidyadhiraja set itself in this environment with a clear goal that education is meant for learning and not merely for passing exams. Vidyadhiraja empowers these children to dream of achievements beyond their world. With minimal resources and underlying passion of teachers Vidyadhiraja has made this possible and stood strong over the years.
Started in the year 2000 by Mr. K N S Nair (Founder) with other like-minded individuals, Vidyadhiraja rented out a place and started a school, named after Shree Vidyadhiraja Swami, a social reformer who worked for eradication of untouchability in the state of Kerala. The school began with the strength of merely 22 students as a play school and now stand strong with a count of over 550 students, boys as well as girls, as a high school and junior college. As of today, there is no child left in the close vicinity who does not go to school.
Vidyadhiraja school relocated its premises twice since it did not own any property. In the year 2014 Vidyadhiraja school found a house in the Bhandup slum area near a salt pan belonging to the Salt Department, which was then turned into a school. The people from the slums welcomed the school with open arms as they value education for their children.
Making the best use of limited space, Vidyadhiraja converted the house into a 10-room school and is making optimum use as follows:
7 Classrooms : Each class accommodates 35-40 students, and operates in 2 shifts
1 Computer Lab: For students to get practical hands on experience
1 Staff Room : for a team of 31 staff members
1 Administrative Office
An open space at the entrance
With its limited infrastructure, the school operates in 2 shifts one in the morning for secondary students and one in the afternoon for pre-primary, junior and primary. The school charges a nominal fee of Rs 850/- per month. Children attending the school in the afternoon are also provided with wholesome mid-day meal prepared by Annamrita Foundation previously known as ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF), which is sponsored by donors supporting School’s cause.
Vidyadhiraja has designed a curriculum to teach children through practical and fun based activities and provides children with the freedom to interact with all. Its democratic structure makes it extremely unique. Every year, a head girl and head boy are elected through Vidyadhiraja Elections organised by the school in which the children get to cast a vote for who would they like to choose as their leader. This helped the students to understand the responsibility that comes with great power and working towards the betterment of others.
Mentioned below are a list of activities that have been regularly conducted by the school over and above the curriculum, which are:
Unique non-curriculum-based projects: for example, the standard 1 children were given the topic “Teeth” and children had to study everything about it in different forms covering all subjects: the number of teeth, types of teeth, dental treatment, cost of dental treatment, dental hygiene materials, the science of teeth, how to identify bad teeth, checking their classmate’s teeth and also composing songs and poems about teeth in Marathi and English, respectively. Vidyadhiraja has received accreditation from the British Council for this.
The Bruno bear project:
where students interact with German children through stories and poems written by them and sending it across with a soft-toy mascot called Bruno the bear, representing Germany, and Appu the elephant, representing India.
Exchange programs: whereby children from international schools from Austria and Italy attend and interact with Vidyadhiraja students and share information about their cultures. The children learnt Italian songs and had art and story-telling sessions. Five Vidyadhiraja students went to the US for an exchange program and participated in an international story competition.
Connection with 4 international schools: through YouTube and exchange of information about their way of living: A Russian School provided information about their dressing sense and similarly learnt about dressing in India. A school in Thailand exchanged information about elephants.
Plantation : Every Saturday, children visit Hariyali, a centre for environmental studies, where they learn to prune plants and clean plastic from mangroves.
Science experiments with Armstrong Science Mobile Lab
Peace project for 3 years: learning about self-awareness with regard to the family, community and world
Movement activity in which specialists in psychology take up this activity with younger children to teach them life skills through various modes of movement. For example, in one of the classes, children were made to listen to a simple tune and were asked to choreograph a 20-second performance completely of their choice and style. Within groups of five students, these children fashioned a synchronized entry, style, movement steps and exit, all on their own! This way, the students learnt the ability to take decisions on their own and trust their instincts rather than just waiting fo
Peace project for 3 years: learning about one-ness and its environment. Children are taught to bring peace within themselves first and watch it reflect in their environment, then spread the idea of peace within their family, friends, society, country, and world, so on.
The School Enterprise Challenge : to learn about money transactions and business, where children created pens out of newspapers and with the profit they made by selling that they made incense sticks (agarbatti) and sold it at the nearby temples, shops and railway station, making a profit of Rs. 24000. The school continues agarbatti making with parents helping the children. Additionally, children are taught napery making and other arts and crafts.
NIT Computer Course, a thorough curriculum on the functioning of computers and using different kinds of applications and web design.
Technology courses by Industrial Training Institute, for 9th and 10th grade students. They receive vocational training at Vidyadhiraja in advancement of technology. This encourages the students to opt for a degree or diploma in engineering or tech studies.
Vidyadhiraja has also won numerous awards in the past few years, to mention a few:
The International School Award from British Council in the year 2012-2015 as well as 2015-2018 which changed the face of this school
The School Enterprise Challenge award from “Teach a man to fish” for people prize in 2012
Royal commonwealth essay competition award wherein 5 students won silver or bronze medals and this has now multiplied enormously to create a very vibrant and global dimension to learning system in the school. This was won by the school almost every alternate year 8 times in these years
4 Teachers from the primary section of the school were accredited with global teacher accreditation by the British Council
The School was selected to send 5 of its students to the US for intercultural exchange program by the AFS group in the YES Program.
International visitors come to the school to interact with the children, to teach and train. They also come to learn from the students and come to become friends for life. The school had visitors from Argentina, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, USA, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and several other countries. Vidyadhiraja has been selected to send two of its students to US for intercultural exchange program. Different organisations over the years have partnered with Vidyadhiraja to conduct several workshops on issues pertaining to Puberty, Personal Hygiene, Sex Education, etc.
The school has been successful in implementing numerous activities and projects with the students, teachers and the community. It is a concentrated effort to bring the world into their lives. Founder members, Principal and their able and passionate teachers and staff members have dedicated themselves to this cause and fruits of their effort are clearly visible.
Nestled in a modest house in the slum area of Bhandup, Vidyadhiraja staff welcomed us. Assembly prayers were being offered by the children in the open area of the school.
Dressed in their bright red uniforms, the children received us with a big smiles. The children were very enthusiastic and seemed happy to learn more through activities. Many parents may want their children to focus only on studies; however, these students are getting good results despite doing a multiple activity-based curriculum.
With a 100% result in the board examinations and a topper scoring 90% , these children are able to learn much more than the normal curriculum. It also adds confidence to try newer things.
We were shown the projects taken up by children and on reviewing the work it was clear that the children were smart with logical thinking. Their thinking and ability to find the right information on their own, from limited available wealth available in form of books and digital media was remarkable. The children were very excited to tell us everything they learn at school, subjects they excel in, and how much they love coming back to school every morning.
We also met some of the Alumni students of Vidyadhiraja who are currently working with high-profile MNCs, while some others are pursuing their dream in creative fields such as photography and English literature from top-level universities.
Vidyadhiraja does not receive any grants from the government. The staff and teachers have to content themselves with lower salaries compared with other schools. The staff members have not left them because of the creative freedom and motivation they have to teach these children.
Vidyadhiraja’s ultimate aim is to impart free education to the children provided they receive sufficient funds. All donations and contributions received are directed towards provisions of activities, sponsored programs and further opportunities for the children.
Vidyadhiraja constantly requires expert teachers and committed volunteers who can come regularly to teach children good English, Mathematics, Sports, and Music.
Vidyadhiraja wants to motivate children to prepare and appear for open exams for Scholarships and Olympiads. They also want to focus on skill development and vocation training for children. Vidyadhiraja realizes that Technology modernizes education.
By bringing the world within the four walls of a class room they would like to invest more in upgrading technology in their labs and class rooms.
The school falls short of its Rs 60 lakhs annual budget, which includes the staff salaries. The school building is not owned by them and they would like to build their own premises which requires funding and support. This wonderful team dreams of accommodating many more students in future.
Vidyadhiraja fulfils its promise of being a school with local footings, national participation and international vision. Vidyadhiraja is a school that really dares to dream and fulfils them with passion and drive, truly a cause worth supporting.
People wishing to send in their contribution may issue an Account Payee cheque favouring "Vidyadhiraja Education Society" (Which satisfies condition of 80 G) and send it to
Vidyadhiraja High School, Tata Nagar Nr Bhandupeshwar Kund,
Bhandup- (EAST), Mumbai - 400042.