Posted by: greatfoundation | March 22, 2011

Ideas that don’t cost money

Ideas that don’t cost money

– Utpala Joshi

 I’m involved in the school management committee of 3 municipal schools. I get to meet parents many of whom have not completed school but see a bright future in educating their sons and daughters. They tell the teachers not to spare the cane and urge to impart good education to their children. Some of them send their children to school even when they are unwell because there is no one at home to look after the sick child as the mothers struggle to keep their jobs cleaning houses and cooking for others. I see lot of hope in their eyes and some of them miss their daily wages to attend the school management meetings. They are doing their best to educate their children.

The school system however needs a lot of improvement and our efforts are, at best bringing in changes very slowly because we have to work within the framework that is old and not financed very well. Despite this, we have been able to implement some ideas that make me feel good. Here is a small list. If you have similar ideas, I would love to hear from you.

  1. At our last meeting the parents complained that there has been no school excursion this year. The Headmistress countered this saying that all her staff has been sent home to home to collect the national census data so she had no time for the excursion. Both sides are equally valid. I remembered the excitement of the excursions and picnics when I was a school kid. Here were parents who could not afford money but wished their children see the outside the world. What can be done? The school happens to be just a block away from a well known, large private nursery centre. Thinking aloud, I said, why not take the children to the nursery centre on a small excursion? They will walk there from school, see the plants, learn a little about various plants, how to care for them and be back after a couple of hours? No money needed from any body. The nursery owners, bless them, agreed immediately and school headmistress arranged for the outing immediately. The children enjoyed the outing and went home to tell their parents about the plants, flowers and the fun they had. The parents in the next meeting thanked the school for arranging the outing. 
  2. Midday meals are a point of discussion in all meetings. The government scheme provides for midday meals to kids that consist of rice and pulses. This is a balanced diet and though not fancy, is definitely wholesome for children. Children being children don’t like the same type of meal day in day out. Parents say children don’t enjoy the meals. We decided that instead of hearing from the children, how about parents coming forward to taste the meal? Let them taste and write their comment. We started keeping a register. At the end of the month the register has entries that mention that the food is not bad at all. On days it is not tasty, we now immediately tell the provider about it. The provider now knows that there is someone who is checking the quality and also writing it down. In last two months, we have not discussed the meal at all!
  3. Attendance in schools is poor in general and especially on Saturday when the school is only half day school. We are now starting a monthly ‘regularity star student’ program. On first of every month, we are going to give a gold star sticker to the student who is present on all days of the previous month. The star will be stuck to the uniform as a proud batch of honor. I’ll report the effect of this on the regularity after a few months but I’m sure it is going to motivate the small primary school students.

These are just a few simple examples. I would love to hear from you if you want us to try something on similar lines. We may not have abundant money but we do have abundant ideas, right?



  1. Three cheers.

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