2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the first Isha Vidhya School. From humble yet enthusiastic beginnings, the Isha Outreach project has experienced incredible growth and success, with many opportunities to learn and improve along the way. Today, a visitor to any of Isha Vidhya’s nine schools will encounter a bright picture – the smiling faces and friendly “Namaskarams” of healthy, happy children in a clean, inviting, and stimulating environment. And behind the scenes, so much life and love has gone into shaping these schools into what they have become today. Over the course of this series, we will present you with the insights and experiences of an Isha volunteer intent on sharing the voices of Isha Vidhya, the real-life stories of the lives of children, parents, teachers, volunteers and many more whose lives have been touched and transformed by these path-breaking schools.

ஒரு நகரவாசியின் பார்வையில் ஈஷா வித்யா – கற்பனைக்கும் அப்பாற்பட்ட ஒரு கிராமத்தில்!

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“Quality education is the only ladder that we can provide these rural children to help them and their families climb out of the economic and social pit.” – Sadhguru

An Isha volunteer shares:

Prior to my visit to Isha Vidhya in Kanagapuram Village, (a remote dwelling in Erode District of Tamil Nadu) I knew Isha Vidhya as one of the initiatives Sadhguru had created to provide quality education in rural areas. The city-raised person I was had quite the romantic imagery of village children – happy, joyful, playing games in farms, dancing and puddle splashing in the rain, or on swings under trees… I had no context to understand why it was essential to uplift the lives of rural children. Nonetheless, I would always rejoice whenever someone told me about the wonderful things happening in Isha Vidhya.

Below are 9 “Wow” all-around achievements of Isha Vidhya schools and students:

  • First batch of 10th grade students pass the state board exams with an average of 89%. Read more
  • An all girls team wins 1st price in Kabbadi and qualifies for district level competition. Read more
  • Surusthika, a 3rd standard student, wins 3rd prize at the Indian National Talent Competition. Read more
  • First prize to 8th standard students in Agni Ignite Science Competition. Read more
  • T.Kartikeyan made to National Level Archery team and will represent India at an International competition in Italy. Read more
  • Project “Solar – an alternative source for cooking” created by Isha Vidhya students wins first prize in National Children Science Congress (NCSC) in the district. Read more
  • First prize in a National Level Drawing Competition Art 2012.
  • Rakshith wins 3rd prize in state level Chess Tournament. Read more
  • Rural children go digital at all Isha Vidhya school thanks to Cognizant Technologies.

The full list is much longer.

Looks like Isha Vidhya Students are performing well in academics, competing alongside city private schools, and succeeding at district, state and national levels. It made me wonder. How they are finding the right teachers, since all the schools are located at least 15–20 km away from even small cities? To get this kind of high performance levels, you would need teachers and trainers with good language skills, subject mastery, dedication and patience. Moreover, as only 40% of Isha Vidhya students pay full fee (which is very low compared to other private schools in these areas), how are they able to fund and manage a school of this kind?

Over 60% children in this school were from unimaginable, heart breaking, underprivileged social and economic background.

All these questions were simmering in my head the morning I set out to the Erode district Isha Vidhya school to check it out. I wanted to hear first-hand from the parents, teachers, helpers and donors there. And yet, within a few hours, I was so blown away by what I saw that it was hard to sleep that night.

Of the 900 students in the school, 474 are currently on scholarship; either their tuition fee is waived or they are on full sponsorship: uniform, books, stationery, and transport are all provided by the school. Many of these children live in very difficult conditions: poverty, including hunger, broken families and exposure to violence or other life negative behavior by adults around them. How do the school teachers earn their trust? How do they guide them into a healthy and productive atmosphere and show them how to study joyfully? How do they inspire them? Surely it is no easy task!

Upon interviewing a few of these children face to face, I was left with a sense of awe and also heartbreak at the idea of what would have happened to them had there been no school like Isha Vidhya around.

Death of the sole earning parent

“I would be 7th pass coolie by now, if I had not been studying in Isha Vidhya,” – Kartik Raja, 11th Grade, one of the state board exams toppers.

Read Kartik’s story and many more in the next post…

Editor’s Note: “Innovating India’s Schooling” is a conference, designed and conducted by Isha Vidhya, Isha Home School and the Isha Leadership Academy to bring together concerned individuals and thinkers from the fields of education, government and industry. Through a series of lectures, debates and discussions, the conference seeks to redefine education as a tool to not just create a highly productive workforce, but also shape an inclusive, responsible and joyful society. The event also marks the tenth anniversary of Isha Vidhya, the rural education initiative of Isha Foundation. Learn more. Follow #10YrsOfIshaVidhya on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.