A Multifaceted School Leader’s Journey: Pioneering a Balwadi in Kolhapur

This School Leader Dons Many Hats, and Starting a Balwadi in Kolhapur is One of His Greatest

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Ideal School, Kolhapur

Kiran Narayan Mali, Ideal School, Kolhapur

Background

Kiran Narayan Mali’s journey from a power loom worker to a revered school leader is deeply emotional and personal. He was raised in a large family with six siblings, and their father worked at the power loom. Kiran recalls the weight of their financial burdens, sharing, “I had to start working when I was still in the 7th grade, delivering newspapers while still attending school. Even with all the challenges, I can proudly say that I managed to stay in school and completed my education up to the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) level.” 

“However, life brought its own set of challenges. I had to quit my education to support my family. It was during this time that I started working at the power loom.”

Inspiration to start the school

While working as a power loom worker, Kiran became actively involved in both labour and student movements, igniting in himself, a burning passion to serve the community. Reflecting on those days, he says, “My reading habits helped me understand the structure and challenges of our society.” Through it all, one belief stood strong: education is the key to bring about transformative change.

How the school started 

Kiran, who faced many challenges in pursuing his own education, was determined to make a positive impact in the community through education. There was just one ‘Balwadi’(a pre-school in Maharashtra) in the worker’s community where he lived, but it had to close down due to measures taken by the corporation. Kiran stepped up in response to the parents’ plea for an educational solution in the Ichalkaranji region. Hearing their cries, he decided to open a new Balwadi in 2001, saying, “I couldn’t turn a blind eye to the children’s thirst for knowledge.”

After witnessing their children’s remarkable progress, parents once again approached Kiran, urging him to establish a primary school. In 2003, he said yes to the new challenges and founded a Marathi primary school, Ideal School, in Kolhapur. 

Kiran believes, “Education holds the power to create a significant change for the future of our community’s children.”

And, that’s what makes leaders like Kiran shining examples of what individuals can achieve even with limited resources. His leadership brought the community together as they pooled funds to run the school, but there were fresh challenges that needed taking care of. “We were frequently served notices to shut down due to lack of affiliation,” he recalls, clearly disheartened. They eventually secured affiliation with an English-medium institution, though the Marathi-medium school had to close for a bit.

Kiran is a firm believer that “educating children in their mother tongue enhances their engagement and pleasure in learning.” So, he made sure the children could go to another Marathi school and continue to receive quality education. His genuine approach to education earned him the trust of parents. This very trust prompted them to appeal for the re-establishment of the Marathi school, even if it wasn’t officially affiliated. 

“Subsequently,” he says with a gleam in his eye, “all the students who had moved away returned to their beloved school, and in time, we gained our long-sought affiliation.” Today, Kiran successfully oversees both English and Marathi medium schools.

Overcoming challenges

Kiran also discusses the difficulties students face and the strategies they use to overcome them. He insists, “Parents need to understand that the true aim of their children’s education extends beyond mere grades and numbers. Our school holds regular meetings with parents to discuss learning objectives and important concepts that will pave the way for their children’s future successes.”

“By actively involving their children in everyday decisions and valuing their opinions, parents can better equip them for the competitive world ahead.”

Kiran stresses, “Teachers are the backbone of our educational system. That’s why our school places a high value on continuously supporting and equipping them with updated knowledge and skills. We frequently invite experts from the industry to conduct workshops on various curriculum-related subjects. Our primary goal is to improve learning outcomes and streamline the learning process for both teachers and students. He further notes, spotlighting an innovative approach, “We’ve recently incorporated the Lead Program, facilitated by Varthana, which promotes two-way learning and a more collaborative approach to education.  

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

Pandemic and building a relationship with Varthana

The pandemic brought major challenges to Ideal School. With the shift to online classes, almost half of the students struggled to participate in virtual sessions. To address this issue, Kiran proactively uploaded educational videos to their YouTube channel.

After reopening, the school dedicated several months to addressing the learning gaps created by the pandemic. Kiran affirms, “Our primary focus was on strengthening numeracy and literacy skills, which proved instrumental in helping students catch up on their studies.”

This is where Varthana played a pivotal role. The school adopted their customized Unlock School course, designed to meet individual educational needs. This program was critical in preventing learning loss and bridging educational gaps. “Varthana has been an invaluable ally in our school’s journey towards excellence.”

Kiran further thanked Varthana for helping with the school’s infrastructure development. He shares, “Without their intervention, we would have taken much longer to build the facilities that parents really trust and rely on. Because of this, more students joined our school, growing from 150 to 400.”

Also Read: How One School Leader’s Adaptive Measures Led To A Surge In Enrollment During The Pandemic

Vision

“Every child is eager to learn, but often don’t teach the way they like. We should teach in ways they enjoy and understand, rather than simply imposing our methods,” Kiran claims. He believes every school should focus on shifting towards effective delivery of the current curriculum rather than introducing entirely new programs.

Kiran is ardently committed to transforming modern learning approaches with a goal to make school fun and safe for students and teachers. He wants learning to be hands-on and focused on the student. He’s working to help teachers and parents understand and use this new way of teaching.

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