GPM opened the first preschool serving the children of the remote rural village of Ashte in the Palghar district of Maharashtra this week. The preschool, which has 30 students for its first cohort, marks the first time that this village of 850 people has access to a preschool.
“The Ashte village leaders approached us earlier this year and asked us to provide a preschool for them,” explains GPM Director Jacob Sztokman. “They saw what amazing things we accomplished in our first year of Love 2 Learn, the schooling network that we established for the villages in the
Dahanu region, and they wanted us to include them, too. So we responded with a resounding ‘Yes’.”
GPM opened the Love 2 Learn primary-school network in 2015, initially with 20 classes, one in each of 20 remote, impoverished and underserved villages in the region. The residents of Ashte, which is one of the most remote villages – several hours’ drive from the nearest city – also asked if the school could be in English rather than the state language of Maharati or even their tribal dialect. The villager residents, who are primarily land owner farmers and landless members of the Konkana tribe, wanted to ensure that their children receive the finest education possible, on par with schools in Mumbai and Delhi.
“It is incredible that this is their aspiration,” Mr. Sztokman added. “Education is so hard to come by at all in this area, but they are not satisfied with basic education. They want English literacy, they want high quality, they want to have equal opportunities for their children. And they have entrusted GPM network.”
Village residents not only took the initiative of bringing GPM’s Love 2 Learn to their village. They also secured a suitable structure for the classroom, which they painted and landscaped with flora that they know their children would love. A tailor from the village also offered to make uniforms for all the children.
GPM hired a local teacher, Ms. Anjana Thorat, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from an Indian university. Due to the lack of educational facilities in the region, Ms. Thorat had been unable to work in her field as the Ashte village is remote and opportunities rare. Now, with the opening of the pre-school, she is able to remain in her community while working in her field. And the children, in turn, benefit from having a highly qualified professional from their own tribe. It is a win-win model for the school and for the community, and keeps the talent local.
Ms. Thorat will be aided by assistant teacher Ms. Geeta Dhangda, also a community member, who studied commerce in English at a local college.
The teachers’ desk was painted in the style of the famous Warli tribal art by a local artist, Mr Ramesh Mirka. The desk, along with all the other furniture, was donated by ORT India, a Jewish educational and training organization that supports non-sectarian economic and social development.
The opening ceremony for the school, which took place this week, was attended by parents, children, GPM staff, and local dignitaries. The district doctor, Dr. Pravin Rathod, was honored as “Chief Guest”, and ceremoniously opened the preschool. The opening ceremony began with the official breaking of the coconut, an Indian custom for good luck, by Mr Devram Jadhav a village elder. Raju Chaudrri , representing the parents spoke at the ceremony as well as: Mr. Pravin Gawli, - member of the Dahnu local govt committee (Panchayat), Mrs Tara Sathe- Sarpanch of the local govt of 3 village group, Mrs Deepa Jadhav- Deputy Sarpanch of 3 village groups, Mr. Sakharam Jadhav- Forest officer, Mr. Bhanya Jadhav- Police officer of Ashte village and Mr. Vijay Jadhav of the Adivasi Forest department.
“It’s a great privilege at Gabriel Project Mumbai to run the Ashte English preschool,” said GPM Program Director Kenneth DSouza at the ceremony. “Our goal is to provide high-quality English education to your children to give them the tools and knowledge for them to excel throughout their schooling."
"We will strive for the best pedagogic curriculum so that your children will have the same level of English education as children in schools in Mumbai in Delhi. We are excited to work together in this endeavor, and thank you for your trust", said Thaiza Dias, Program Manager of the Love2Learn program at GPM.
After the ceremony, the teacher and assistant teacher sat with GPM teaching staff for their firsttraining before classes begin tomorrow.
The Ashte English Preschool is sponsored by the Global Mitzvah Project of Temple Emanual, Kensington, Maryland