Thirty kilometers outside of Coimbatore at the base of the Velliangiri foothills lies the tribal village of Thanikandi. In this place where the barest of amenities is considered a luxury, a tamarind tree stands as social center, central court and post office: For the village children, the tamarind tree is downtown. Every activity happens around the tree, but the activity glaringly absent was education. The only school in the vicinity was established by the government and located in a rudimentary shed, more often used as a shelter from the elements than a center for learning. To reach the school, the teacher had to trek 3km over rugged terrain often frequented by elephants and other wild animals. As a result, she rarely made it to the school, and the prospect of education faded into the backdrop. Instead, the children spent their time in the forests, engaged in income-generating activities to supplement their families’ meager earnings.
When Isha Foundation adopted the village, its top priority was establishing a school for basic education. Providing the children with proper clothing, footwear and food earned the confidence of the children’s parents. Creating employment opportunities for the adults ensured that basic needs were met, freeing the children to focus on education. A passionate teacher was identified and basic classrooms were set up. The same process was carried forth in other nearby tribal villages, and today these children are preparing for their board exams. Thus, informally, Isha Vidhya was born, with the broad objective of bringing quality education to the often neglected rural areas.
The first Isha Vidhya School opened its doors on June 19, 2006 in Sandegounden Palayam (SGP), Coimbatore. In its first year, the school enrolled 263 students from 26 nearby villages in lower kindergarten through class II. The following academic year saw the opening of three additional schools in villages near Erode, Nagercoil and Tuticorin, while the SGP school added Class III as the students all moved up one class and a new batch of students was admitted for Lower Kindergarten. In academic year 2010-2011, another school was opened at vanavasi near salem.The academic year of 2009-2010 began with the opening of new schools in Villupuram and Cudalore. There are currenlty 7 schools in operation and each year the schools will expand one grade level until they are running at full capacity with classes from lower kindergarten through 12th standard.
The schools presently cater to more than 2,800 students from nearby villages, with approximately 60% of students supported by full scholarships.
The Isha Vidhya schools have many innovative features:
- Need-based scholarships cover tuition, books, notebooks and nutritional health supplements
- Students have access to low-cost transportation to and from school
- Lunches are provided at some of the schools
- Students receive regular nutritional health supplements
- School buildings are designed in open–concept, classroom clusters that are architecturally intriguing and inspiring for the students
- In-school celebrations of traditional festivals and holidays help keep educational and cultural values alive
To learn more about the unique curriculum at Isha Vidhya, visit: Methodology