From Affluent Farmer to School Leader: Inspiring Thane’s Slum Children to Dream Big

This Affluent Farmer-Turned-School Leader is Inspiring Slum Children in Thane to Dream Big

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Twins English High school

Harishchandra Pandey, Twins English Medium School, Manpada, Thane

Background

Hailing from a prosperous business family in Manpada, Thane, Harishchandra Pandey is more than just a successful farmer with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agriculture. His family legacy involves managing hotels, photo studios, and various cowshed operations. But, the traditional family business never fulfilled him as he aspired to make a positive impact on future generations.

The farmpreneur, owning 19 acres of land in Thane, discovered his true purpose in a unique project. Instead of using the land to make money, he decided to start a school for children living in nearby slums.

His mission? To offer these underprivileged children an opportunity they could scarcely dream of – a chance to get an education. His plan was not just about allowing these children to attend school, but encouraging them to dream big, have big goals and work hard to achieve them.

Harishchandra moved to Mumbai in 1994 to work as a teacher at Rajiv Gandhi Vidyalaya. His aim was to understand the intricacies of school administration. This sparked his interest in education, leading him to pursue and earn his B.Ed while continuing to teach. His passion for education is evident as demonstrated by his ongoing service at the same school.

Twins English Medium School, Manpada, Thane

Inspiration behind the school

Harishchandra says his guru, Kedarnath Dube Shatri, inspired him to start his journey in education. “My guru helped many people become educators and start their careers in education, and he changed my life too. I wanted to do the same and help others by creating opportunities in education,” he reflects. This simple realization influenced him to open a school and become an educational entrepreneur.

Initial challenges

People usually find it hard to raise enough money to start a school. Harishchandra, who thinks like a businessman, took 10 years to save enough money. He started by buying small houses in the slum area, with the intention of eventually constructing a school there. He rented out these houses, which gave him a regular income. Thanks to his careful planning, he was able to acquire 17 properties within the area, paving the way for his dream school.

How the school started

Harishchandra started to put his plans into action when the time was right. In 2004, when the school management decided to stop taking tuition fees, he had more time to focus on building his dream school. Selling some properties he had invested in, he started procuring adjacent plots for his school. Taking the lead, Harishchandra initiated the construction of a three-story building with the help of his father-in-law and a close friend. This venture encouraged others, leading to nearby one-story schools being turned into bigger, full-fledged institutions.

Also Read: A School Leader Who Doesn’t Ask for Recognition

Charting the growth of the school

In its inaugural year of 2005, the school saw an enrollment rise up to 350 students, which greatly encouraged Harishchandra. His vision was to transform this institution into a future-ready school in just two years. He decided to integrate technology into the classroom, amplifying the learning experience.

Throughout that first year, Harishchandra made sure the school provided quality education, even providing free admission, books, bags, and uniforms. Parents were drawn to the school because of its superior infrastructure, excellent classrooms and quality teachers.

This made Harishchandra want to make the school better every year. He improved the school buildings and classrooms to help students learn better. In 2009, keeping up with advancements in technology, the school adopted an E-attendance system to keep track of students and teachers. This system also helped parents get automated reports about their children.

“Building a successful school was not easy,” Harishchandra shares. “Most of the students came from lower middle-class and labourer families. That’s why we strive to make education as accessible as possible.” The school leader also revealed that they even gave a 50% concession based on how well students did in their studies, maintaining an empathetic understanding of the parents’ economic circumstances.  “Our goal is and will always be to offer affordable education, ensuring that no child is left behind,” he stresses.

“We have been able to give free education to students from families with low income who have a lot of potential. Teachers are the backbone of our school,” he adds. “We do a lot to support them. We organize trips to help them relax from their daily work, and we invite experts to inspire them and help them improve their teaching skills. We thank our teachers for our success, which makes them feel valued and respected. This helps them stay connected to the school.”

“We strongly believe that schools, parents, and teachers need to work together to handle tough situations. This belief helped our school provide food and medical help to 50 to 60 parents during the COVID pandemic, just like a family would,” asserts Harishchandra.

When the school reopened, the teachers looked at students who had a 2-year learning gap and then assessed them and made customized worksheets based on how much they knew. To make learning more engaging, Twins English Medium School started using an E-learning system believing that it is important to tell parents how their child is doing in the new classroom setup after COVID. So, they give parents updates every month about how their child is doing and ask for their thoughts regularly.

Also Read: This School Leader Is Carrying On His Father’s Legacy Of Education in Haryana

Varthana loan

Harishchandra is thankful to Varthana for helping the school grow. “They helped with the funding for our school and office buildings. We were able to maximize enrollment with Varthana’s assistance and added more seats in the classrooms and bought more desks, books, and other things students need for learning.” he says gratefully. 

Vision for the school

Like all visionaries, Harishchandra has ambitious plans for the future of his school. He wants to own more land to build playgrounds, because the school doesn’t have any right now. He also wants to make the school modern with all the latest facilities. But he doesn’t want to stop at just a school. He plans to add a junior college and a senior college too.

With these microplanning strategies firmly in place, this forward-thinking leader is poised to make a big difference in the lives of children who don’t have many chances in life. His journey shows how important education is and how a good leader can make a difference. It’s clear that Harishchandra’s legacy will continue to inspire and shape futures, one student at a time.

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