Way back in the late 1990s, Rotary Club of Sonkutch, RID 3040, Madhya Pradesh, realised the stark deprivation children from disadvantaged families, who study in government schools, face when it comes to facilities and infrastructure in their schools. Even basic facilities like safe drinking water, clean toilets and decent benches and tables are lacking in these schools. “The result is that they lose interest in attending school and drop out before reaching even Class 5. Many of these children are forced into child labour. So Rotarians from our club pledged that they will ensure that all government schools in and around Sonkatch and other parts of RID 3040 have school furniture and no student sits on floor anymore. And we have succeeded to a great extent,” says club member and PDG Dr Zamin Hussain.
The club set out in right earnest, almost 25 years ago, to get various matching grants and subsequently global grants from The Rotary Foundation and implemented many grant projects for these schools in partnership with various clubs in the US, Austria, Germany and Singapore. “With the help of these grants we could gift furniture and other basic facilities to more than 1,400 schools in our area, benefitting thousands of students. We also provided safe water, toilet blocks and science labs,” he adds.
The moment the students shift from the floor and are not obliged to crouch and bend upon their notebooks and textbooks, the benefit to their spine, thanks to their improved posture, is tremendous and they are saved from a plethora of spinal problems, for now and the future. The other health benefit is that since a proper distance of 25cm is maintained between the eye and the book, there is no strain on the eyes, preventing considerable refractive errors. But above all, proper schoolroom furniture gives the children dignity, as they feel they are not children of a lesser god and don’t have to sit on the floor any more. This enhances their interest in attending classes and paying attention to what is being taught in school.
An interesting fallout is that now they are seated right, the children’s handwriting improves too!
PDG Hussain adds that in the last few years RC Sonkutch has partnered with RC Singapore “in our crusade against illiteracy and Rotarians from this club are helping us to purchase furniture and gift them to schools. Recently with their help we could provide about 1,300 sets of furniture to schools in Sonkatch, Indore, Ujjain and Khargone. They also helped us through a global grant to provide medical equipment during the Covid pandemic.”
Recently a team of six Rotarians, under the leadership of DGND Dr Shahul Hameed from Singapore visited Sonkatch to meet the students, teachers and local Rotarians. They also visited a government hospital where the club has set up a Rotary ward.
In order to supplement water resources, RC Singapore has also extended help to install 270 rooftop rainwater harvesting units which will divert rainwater to borewells through sand filters, in order to recharge the water table and ensure the availability of water throughout the year for the community.
During his visit, Dr Hameed expressed his happiness with both the projects and the way they were being implemented. “We are happy to note that they will indeed create a lasting change in this region, and help the children study better. RC Singapore will be happy to continue as a partner for future projects too.”
Another Rotarian from the Singapore club, Peter Brock, observed that the school desk project “provides not only a physical benefit, but it also enhances the psychological needs of the students. Using the desks provides each student with additional confidence to contribute as well as to attend classes.”
On the rainwater harvesting project, the Singapore Rotarians were happy that this would provide a practical and sustainable benefit to the entire community. They thanked RC Sonkutch president Dinesh Carpenter and secretary Dinesh Rathod for working so hard to make these projects a huge success.