Nancy Miranda and Sunil Survey, Divine Mercy School, Dahanu, Thane
Nancy Miranda and Sunil Survey shared a common dream and are now working together to fulfill and nurture it. Nancy, coming from a humble background, was raised by her mother, who worked as a teacher to support her children. After completing her SSC, Nancy pursued her graduation and simultaneously worked as a teacher. Following her graduation, she spent 2-3 years working as a school teacher before transitioning to a job in a private shipping company. However, her passion for education never faded. On the other hand, Sunil, from a disciplined middle-class family with a father in the Army, was inspired by a sense of service instilled in him. With two sisters already in the education field, he felt compelled to open a school that serves the purpose of providing quality education to poor children.
Inspiration behind starting the school
When asked about the motivation behind their school, Sunil shares, “I have been fortunate to receive a lot from society, and I strongly believe in giving back. Education is a domain where our contributions can have a sustainable impact on society.” He continues, “My love for children fuels my desire to own a school, as it allows me to serve for as long as I can. The best part is that there is no retirement in this endeavour.” Nancy, too, expresses her longing to return to the education sector, stating that working in this field brings her contentment and joy.
How it started and the challenges
Both of them had pure intentions for getting into the education sector, but where to start? Nancy and Sunil wanted to open a school in a tribal area to serve the unpriviledged children. Nancy played a significant role in locating suitable places for the school, and finally in 2014, they established the Divine Mercy School in Dahanu, starting with 24 students and 2 teachers.
Currently, the school has 471 students, however, the journey to reach this point was far from easy. Nancy and Sunil used to travel for six hours daily, covering a distance of approximately 240 kilometers. Their motivation stemmed from witnessing the lack of quality education in the area. Many parents desired to enroll their children in English medium schools, but the options were limited and unaffordable. Consequently, they would settle for any vernacular medium school available.
Moreover, 60% of the students studying in Divine Mercy come from tribal families. Astonishingly, some students had never even stepped foot in a school until the age of 10 or 12. Furthermore, a significant portion of the children are the first in their families to pursue education. Sunil takes pride in the school’s commitment. “We give priority to girl children,” he states adding, “Even when a family has four girls and struggles to afford their education, we make it possible for them to attend school.”
“Nevertheless, there are still numerous children who have surpassed the age of enrollment and remain excluded from the educational system. To address this, we put forth tremendous efforts to bring them in, providing them with six months of foundational training before placing them in age-appropriate classes. In some cases, this support is offered at nominal charges or even free of cost,” Sunil boasts with pride.
“Most parents in these areas lack awareness about the importance of education and do not pay much attention to their children’s educational growth,” he continues, explaining why they implemented a strategy of conducting parent meetings every two months. “Through these meetings, we ensure transparency by sharing the school’s challenges and strategies with parents. They also welcome suggestions and try to implement valuable ones, fostering a close partnership between parents and the management.”
“This approach has significantly reduced absenteeism,” Sunil firmly assures, adding that the management believes that fostering values of respect and transparency is the key to their success.
It is a moment of great pride for Nancy and Sunil as their very first batch of SSC students is preparing to take their exams this year. She excitedly shares, “While some schools choose not to admit weaker students, we wholeheartedly embrace them at our school. We nurture and shape their abilities, preparing them for this important milestone.” She further expresses, “We were recently commended by the panchayat samiti members for our approach. It is truly remarkable to witness these once rejected students now aspiring to pursue higher education by appearing for the SSC exams.”
Impact of the pandemic
Sunil and Nancy reflect on their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic and express their pride in how they handled the situation. Nancy explains, “We managed to support our entire staff by providing them with a monthly salary, even taking loans if necessary. Our teachers continued to educate students online, despite some parents being unable to pay fees. Addressing the learning gap became a significant challenge, so we took measures to extend working hours and focused on strengthening numerical and literacy skills. We guided and encouraged parents to play an active role in bridging this gap. During the period of school closure, we provided students with worksheets, and for those lacking internet access or smartphones, we ensured they received study materials.”
The school owners acknowledge that the biggest challenge they face is the lack of infrastructure and space. Fortunately, Varthana stepped in to help expand the school. Both Sunil and Nancy express their deep gratitude towards Varthana, stating, “With the loan provided by Varthana, we were able to construct a stage, additional classrooms, and a compound.” They further explain, “The compound has been crucial in ensuring the safety of our children, while the new classrooms and stage allow us to conduct more activities and events.” Recognizing the importance of hygiene and health, they add, “We are also building better toilets to ensure proper sanitation.” The improved infrastructure has enabled them to accommodate more students, resulting in a significant increase in admissions. This support from Varthana has been instrumental in the growth and development of their school.
The Divine Mercy School is steadily growing, and with a strong determination, it will undoubtedly achieve all its goals and aspirations. Sunil and Nancy have an abundance of dreams for the school, including the desire to expand it into a degree college. Education is not just their profession; it is their life’s purpose, and they hold steadfast belief in its transformative power.
Their vision extends beyond the academic realm. They envision classrooms that are spacious, well-ventilated, and filled with natural light, providing an environment where students can breathe, play, learn, and thrive. They are committed to nurturing the school, ensuring it remains a physically, mentally, and emotionally comfortable space for all students.
Nancy has a particular interest in offering coding curriculum to students, recognizing the importance of digital skills in today’s world. Additionally, this year, they have introduced Vedic Maths, broadening the educational opportunities available to the students.
Sunil and Nancy are dedicated to serving the school for as long as they possibly can, leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of providing quality education and empowering the next generation.
In a world where many people don’t have the chance to get a good education, Sunil and Nancy’s journey to create the Divine Mercy School shows how passion, hard work, and a belief in every child’s potential can make a big difference. They care deeply about their community, and they’ve faced and overcome many challenges to make their school excellent. Their story has inspired lots of people and become a model for others. The school is located in tribal Dahanu and as it keeps growing, it brings hope for a better future. It shows that education can bring positive changes to the lives of students who may have felt left behind in the education system.