A group of young girls at the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls’ School in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, “eagerly approached a table stacked with books. Their eyes sparkled with excitement as they picked up one book after another. Our hearts melted when we saw them excitedly going through the kaleidoscope of colourful books, picking out one for themselves, sharing their discoveries and laughter,” smiles Dr Chitra C Iravatham, president of RC Hyderabad Smart City, RID 3150, reflecting on the joyful scene.
Supported by the royal family of Jaisalmer and run by CITTA Education Foundation India, Jaisalmer, this school, inaugurated in 2021 in Kanoi village 40km from Jaisalmer, aims to tackle the issue of female illiteracy in the region. RCs Hyderabad Smart City and Jaisalmer Swarna Nagari, RID 3055, have donated a library to the school to further this mission.
Named ‘The Sacred Niche,’ the newly installed library has an impressive collection of over 150 books. Ranging from storybooks to interactive workbooks and encyclopaedias, “this literary treasure offers opportunities to girls to expand their horizons. The library features books in both English and Hindi, allowing the girls to explore worlds beyond their own while also nurturing the regional language,” she says.
The journey to bring this library to life was a collaborative effort that spanned six months. Chitra explains that her club “meticulously organised and procured the books, ensuring a diverse and engaging collection for the young girls. The total cost of the project is ₹2 lakh.”
The girls are keen on learning new skills, and the new library has become their go-to place in the school.
– Lalit Purohit, headmaster Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls’ School
The current strength of the school is over 100 girls who “hail from families of weavers, craftsmen, and nomads living in the Thar desert. Education, and all other facilities, including transportation, meals and uniforms, are provided to them free of cost,” says the club president and shares an interesting bit of information. “Sabya Sachi, the renowned designer, worked on the girls’ uniform using the fabric ajrakh produced by craftsmen from the region. This integration of the local cultural heritage into their daily lives enriches their educational experience, ensuring a strong connection to their roots.”
RC Hyderabad Smart City also donated mechanic tool kits, storage cabinets and two desktop computers, enabling the girls to develop essential computer skills. Chitra hopes that “other Rotary clubs come forward to help this school as it lacks educational equipment and resources. The support from our clubs will create a better learning environment for the girls.”
Looking ahead, both the Rotary clubs envision a future “where these empowered girls become agents of change in our communities. The plan is to encourage them to teach their mothers how to write their names and gradually introduce them to the joy of reading,” says Pratish Chandak, president of RC Jaisalmer Swarna Nagari. He recently met Chaitanya Raj Singh, the king of Jaisalmer and the administrative head of the school. “He intends to send a few senior students on an international educational tour and has approached our club for sponsorship. We are delighted to provide assistance,” says Chandak.
Lalit Purohit, the school headmaster, witnessed first-hand the transformation sparked by the new library. “The girls are keen on learning new skills, and the new library has become their go-to place in the school,” he says. Group and individual reading sessions are conducted and “the girls eagerly wait for their turn to dive into the captivating world of books. You will be surprised at how well the girls in Classes 3 and 4 not just read, but communicate in English,” he brims with pride.
The Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls’ School, located in the rural Thar desert of Jaisalmer, is a unique oval-shaped building designed to withstand extreme temperatures. The school can accommodate 400 girls from kindergarten to Class 10. Constructed with local sandstone and designed by New York-based Diana Kellogg Architects, the school symbolises feminine strength. The courtyard features a rainwater harvesting facility, emphasising the importance of responsible water management in the arid desert environment. The complex includes the Medha Hall for craft exhibitions and is also used as a space to provide education and training in traditional skills like artistry, weaving and embroidery for rural women.