This Leader Left His Well Paying Job To Build A School That Is Changing Lives In Raigarh

This Leader Left His Well Paying Job To Build A School That Is Changing Lives In Raigarh

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Varthana - School Leader

A K Biswal, Woods Valley English Medium School, Raigarh, Chhattisgarh

We all know the value of education in our lives. It’s what broadens our horizons and provides the younger generation tools to shape the future of our country. We sit with A K Biswal, the school leader of Woods Valley English Medium School in Kasdol, Tamnar block, Raigarh District, Chhattisgarh, as he shares the remarkable progress Woods Valley School has made in the last six years under his leadership.

About the school leader

After graduating from Sambalpur University, Mr. Biswal began his career in 2001 as a teacher. It was in 2009 when he joined a prestigious school as an English lecturer that he discovered his true passion for education.

During his tenure, Mr. Biswal noticed that the school’s fees were out of reach for many rural families due to the CBSE curriculum and other facilities provided. He saw a need to provide quality education that was affordable for all families, regardless of their economic situation

With this in mind, Biswal left his well-paying job, approached his father-in-law, Mohanlal Maurya, and together they established The Woods Valley School in 2017.

A K Biswal

Since then, the school has become a beacon of hope for many underprivileged students in the region, offering them a chance to receive education that they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.

Overcoming challenges

Starting a school from scratch is never an easy task, and Mr. Biswal’s experience was no different. When he began, he had no land, property, or building to use as a site for the school. “The first hurdle was finding a location to rent and starting regular classes,” the school leader shares. Despite these difficulties, Mr. Biswal’s reputation as a teacher in the community meant that many parents were willing to support him in his efforts and enrolled their children in Woods Valley School.

In the first year, 105 students were accepted into the school, providing a much-needed source of income to keep the school operational. However, the school still required various investments to ensure its quality, including furniture, a library, a playground, and a school compound, which required significant amounts of money.

“To fund these expenses, we reached out to some of my close friends and relatives for financial assistance. Fortunately, we were able to accumulate enough money to purchase two acres of land in Kasdol, and by the second year, the construction of the school building had begun. By the end of the second year, we were able to move into the new building, thanks to the support of the community and parents,” Mr. Biswal asserts.

Also Read: From A Farmerworker’s Son To Becoming A Proud Edupreneur

Importance of affordable and quality education

Throughout his career as a teacher, Mr. Biswal has witnessed that children from middle and upper-middle-class families can access education either in government or private schools. However, he also recognized that children from lower-middle-class families and underprivileged backgrounds struggle to afford quality education. Having observed this firsthand, he was inspired to create a school that would provide affordable education to all students, regardless of their economic situation.

“All children have the potential to achieve great things in society through education, and it is vital to provide them with the tools they need to succeed,” he believes.

“This is why Woods Valley School has an affordable fee structure, supporting students from lower-middle-class backgrounds and ensuring they receive a quality education.”

Coping with the lockdown and online classes

When the first lockdown hit, Mr. Biswal knew that it would last for a long time. He immediately began planning for the next one and a half years, anticipating the challenges that would arise. He met with teachers and parents to convince them about the importance of online learning and how Woods Valley School would continue to operate during the lockdown.

All the teachers were trained and instructed to conduct online classes, and parents were asked to arrange smartphones or tablets for their children to attend online classes.

For those who didn’t have access to technology, teachers implemented alternative teaching methods such as assigning homework over phone calls, conducting mohalla classes and guiding parents on how to monitor their children’s studies.

Online classes were conducted for five to six hours each day, with three and a half hours dedicated to academic learning and two hours for homework.

“Despite the challenges, we ensured that education would not come to a halt during the lockdown and pandemic. Parents had faith in the school and our teachers, and as a result, the school was able to recover 90% of its fees during the lockdown,” Mr. Biswal assures. This was a testament to the school’s commitment to providing quality education to its students, no matter the circumstances.

Relation with Varthana

In 2019, when the school building was under construction, Mr. Biswal faced a significant challenge – a shortage of funds. He approached several public and private banks for a loan, but to no avail, as loans for non-profit organizations required a special policy. Desperate for help, he scoured the internet for a solution, and that’s when he stumbled upon Varthana. Luckily, one of his acquaintances from a nearby school had taken a loan from the same organization and provided him with all the necessary details to apply for a loan.

With the help of Varthana, Mr. Biswal was able to secure an unsecured loan, which was a lifeline for Woods Valley school. “The loan enabled the school to complete the remaining construction work at a crucial time in the academic session. Once the construction was completed, we saw a significant increase in enrollment. Between 2019 and 2020, 105 more students joined the school,” Biswal speaks in a grateful voice.

Today, Woods Valley School has more than 350 students enrolled, and its partnership with Varthana has been instrumental in achieving this milestone.

Prospects

The growth of Woods Valley School has been incredible since 2017. From renting premises to owning their school building, they have achieved remarkable progress. Recently, they received the 10th board certification from the Chhattisgarh Board of Education, and in the future, they are planning to apply for the 12th board certification from the government. “I want to build a hostel on the school campus and expand the building to support the kids from 28 nearby villages,” Mr. Biswal envisions.

Mr. Biswal’s dedication and efforts towards providing affordable and quality education to students are truly inspiring. He is a leader who brings about positive change in society, and we are privileged to share his story.

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