This school in West Bengal village is proving to be a beacon of hope for underprivileged kids
Started in 2008 by Anup Gayen and Mojca Gayen, the Piali Ashar Alo School has over 160 girl students. The school gives free education and provides free midday meals.
Piali is a small remote village located in the south of West Bengal, which is notorious for being a crime hub. From illegal arms trade to trafficking of young girls, the village is no place for young children. Besides, it is also infamous for its child marriages.
But over the past year, things have changed for good. Piali has now turned into a haven for all the young girls, thanks to Anup Gayen (45) and Mojca Gayen (38). The couple has been determined to change the face of this crime village into a safe haven for young girls.
Anup and his wife Mojca, who is from Slovenia, have built Piali Ashar Alo School (Light of Hope), which is working to better the lives of underprivileged children.
The school currently houses over 160 girl students from nursery to Class 8, and most of them belong to broken families, with alcoholic fathers and estranged mothers.
The Piali Ashar Alo is also a school with a difference. Unlike a regular school, it focuses more on the overall development of students.
The school conducts classes in music, dance, drama, arts, and sports, and also nurtures students by giving them free mid-day meals and free tuitions as well.
It has also introduced courses like tailoring and beautician courses for women in the region. Further, it also organises computer and spoken English classes frequently.
Speaking to Efforts For Good, Anup said,
“Recently, I have introduced football coaching for our girls where local boys also train together. These boys used to lead a shady life, dropping out of school early and consumed drugs and were into gambling. Now, the girls and boys are together representing the village team in different tournaments.”
According to The Telegraph, Mojca contacted people in Slovenia for help after the school started. One of them mobilised school children, who collected newspapers in bulk and sold them to raise Rs 4.5 lakh. The couple used the money to buy a plot for the school, and also made use of the funds to conduct free tuitions and to pay teachers.
In addition, two German NGOs - Christlicher Entwicklungsdienst and FAMI - helped the couple build school infrastructure.
Today, each student - from kindergarten to class 8 - is either sponsored by an individual or an institution, and most of the sponsors are based abroad, reports The Telegraph. In addition, students receive uniforms, stationery, and a monthly package of hygiene aid from the school.
Piali Ashar Alo school was Anup’s dream of doing something for underprivileged children. Mojca, a Slovenian psychologist, who was in India for a six-month internship, shared this dream. Speaking to The Telegraph, Anup said,
"If there is no education, children of the poor will continue to remain poor. I believe that if not all, at least 50 percent of our students will grow up and stand by another poor child.”
It wasn’t an easy ride for the couple, as Anup and Mojca had to go from door-to-door, convincing parents to send their daughters to school. However, things changed with time and families started sending their children to school.
Anup said, “We have tried our best to help the girls have a better future. We are still trying our best.”