Support a School for Tribal Children of Chakrata, Indian Himalaya

Good Education: Many children, like Dipika, Krish, Jay and Pawan above, have to walk long dangerous trails to reach a good school in the Himalayas. But they do it, because good education is valued more than anything - even personal safety, in these remote communities. Here is a good Quint, one minute video on this issue:

SMTA Niketan is the only non-profit primary school and community center serving about fifty small Himalayan villages, between Chakrata and Lakhamandal, since 1988, a stretch of about 50 km in the high mountains of District Dehradun.
(Google map link: )

Why This fundraiser: SMTA Niketan wants to expand and deepen the ongoing education in its primary school. We wish to offer the students, walking long distances, the quality education they expect, demand and deserve.

The Primary School: It currently has 34 students (from Class 1-5); we hope to raise enrolment to 50+ in the next session. All the students come from either ST or SC background. Girls are under-represented (about 30% only). It follows the state curriculum. The teachers at present implement it in a straight jacketed manner. The emphasis is on completing the course and ensuring that the child passess the annual exam. There is a big scope for strengthening its dynamic connections with gender, environmental, ethics, mindfulness and day to day relevance.

Background: SMTA is a voluntary agency, which began in 1983, having drawn inspiration from SWRC. It was registered as a society in 1986. It was started by two eminent social workers: Ruben and Maggi (Picture above). It is working on education, watershed development and livelihood issues etc. (Vide our annual report below). 

Credentials: Here is a reference to the Founder's (Ruben) decades of work in this region in an online International Journal. (Please translate from Spanish). The current director ("sachin") is known for his self-help work, to support people who stammer (link 1, link 2).

Two of our past presidents, Late Mr KR Joshi and Late Mr Gulab Ramchandani (picture above) were noted educationists of this region.
SMTA has sustained this primary school from its own meagre resources for many years, because it is a community need and a worthy cause. We believe that children with a broad based education are the biggest investment in our collective future, are the enduring strategy against migration, climate change and many other social issues.

The SMTA team wants to make the school financially independent, so it can run without having to rely on unreliable funds left over from other projects that may come in.

Hence, we are looking for a five year support to diversify and enrich school’s ongoing operations; we plan to hire two more teachers, introduce multimedia projector in the classroom, Computer education, Environmental science, a mindfulness program and other extra academic activities like organise exposure trips for the students and start a residential facility for the students who come from distant villages.

Problem: State of Education in Uttarakhand
This is a region where the state finishes most of its meagre budget on educational infrastructure and salaries, with little left for quality assurance. This is what a 2016 report has to say:

“..the public schools are up to the mark only in terms of enrollment and basic structure, maintenance was not well and quality of teaching was very minimal…”
(Prospects, Challenges and Achievements of Right to Education in Uttarakhand, India)

Presence of Teachers : another sad truth as per a 2014 report:
“As many as 39,000 students in 1,689 primary schools in the Uttarakhand's 13 districts see only one teacher each day at school ..”
(Dec 28, 2014; The Economic Times )

Migration: Unfortunately, recent infrastructure development in the region (like roads) have promoted migration to plains, because “good” and accessible education continues to elude many families in the mountains. An adult member of the family often shifts to the nearest town in the plains (100+ km away) escorting the eldest child, who has graduated from class eight in the village. In a few years time, rest of the family with other children in tow, follows, leaving behind the fields and the cottage derelict. It is strongly suspected that if SMTA were to shut down this primary school, 50-100 families would be forced to look elsewhere (mostly in far away plains) for education of their wards, over next 2-3 years. Such migrations have impoverished both the natural and human ecosystems in the Himalayas.

Time Frame: We plan to bring in these changes in phased fashion over next five years. Though the academic session (April-March) has begun, inducting teachers will be possible as soon as budgets are available. Dr Satyendra Srivastava, the author, works as the Director, SMTA, and assures that all the funds will be invested in the school itself, in a transparent and efficient manner.

SMTA Team:  At present, it consists of Sultan (Program Coordination), Kundan (Accounts), Chain Singh (School In charge), Dhaneshwari (Hospitality), Radha (women's initiatives) and Sohan (watershed Development); The team is being led by Dr Satyendra (sachin), who has a background in Health and Management. (linkedin)

SMTA is governed by a general body and a governing body (Pic above) which meets regularly. Governing body is headed by our President, Ms Rekha (a dedicated teacher) and Vice president, Rachit Gupta, a Dehradun based entrepreneur with social bent.

Vision: Education, Environment, Ethics for Tomorrow’s citizens in Healthy & Happy Himalayas.

Budget: In total, for five year support, we need to raise About Rs 22 Lacs. SMTA will be making its own contributions, as in the past. See the proposed budget as attachment below.
Five year budget; Receipt and Payments for the school for 2017-18
Five year budget; Receipt and Payments for the school for 2017-18
Annual Report 2017-18: a picture of our overall programs
Annual Report 2017-18: a picture of our overall programs
Balance sheet 2016-17
Balance sheet 2016-17
Ask for an update
10th July 2018
We have a PROJECTOR at last!
We have bought an Acer Projector (x118H) and have started using it in the school. We showed "The Bears" (1988) wildlife movie to children on 7th July. A visitor, Kumar Kundan (working in Delhi Metro) also visited the school that day, interacted with children and took a feedback AFTER the movie.  Here is the feedback round:
Here is a brief feedback from Kundan himself:
Not only movie, we were able to show youtube videos for conversational English, to children and practice with them. Here is a still pic:

Our future plans are: to procure some play stuff (Volleyball, Carrom, Chess) and some Practical science instrument like telescope etc. We are also in the process of identifying additional teachers for the school. Keep checking this space..
A big THANKS from all of us in SMTA and all the school kids. If you are ever in this region, do drop in.
27th June 2018
Mr Dhruv, a Green Energy consultant from Mumbai, visited the school in May 2018, as we were about to launch this fundraiser. This is what he has to say about the school:
"..I visited the SMTA School in May 2018. It was a wonderful experience. During recess, I didn't feel like I was in a remote mountain village anymore - I could have been in any school yard across the world. The sound of children chattering, playing games, and laughing. The school is run professionally by Dr. Sachin (Director) and Guru ji (Head Teacher, B.Ed). They are continuously trying to go beyond the Uttarakhand State Curricula and improve the quality of wholistic education - including mindfulness, music, farming, etc. It is noteworthy that SMTA has been subsiding school fees for children since the school's inception - one month's fee per child is about INR 50. They are sincerely trying to make a difference in the community - provide quality education to children who would otherwise be deprived of one. This is a worthy cause..."
- Dhruv Gupta  (on his blog)

26th June 2018
SMTA has been learning a lot through this fundraiser. Number one learning is, mobilising our friends and well wishers and being upfront with them- that yes, SMTA school needs material help! Something that we had not done systematically over a long period of time.

The school is closed for the summer vacation now. It will be opening on 1st July. We hope to be able to buy a Projector by then, so that we can start using it in the classroom, to make presentations more attractive for the kids.

In the meantime, we had an eye camp at our Vikasnagar campus:

We thank ALL our donors for their help and ongoing support. Please continue to share the fundraiser with anyone, you think, may be interested in Education..
raised of Rs.2,200,000 goal

61 Supporters

Beneficiary: Society For Mot... info_outline
80G tax benefits for INR donations

Supporters (61)

Gaurav donated Rs.1,000
about 13 hours ago
Abhijit donated Rs.1,000
about 14 hours ago

For Chacha

Ruchira donated Rs.2,000
about 14 hours ago

My best wishes to everyone

Nannan donated Rs.5,000
4 days ago

Mr Nannan was my colleague in Chennai metro water

Kavish donated Rs.500
4 days ago
Reeva donated Rs.2,500
4 days ago