Ellisbridge School, identified as number 30, is one of the many schools run by local state and municipal governments across India that provide primary and secondary-level education at the grassroots. On November 11, students of the school were surprised to see a bunch of unexpected visitors. Over the next week, 300 student volunteers from Ahmedabad University trooped into the school with 60 litres of colour to paint ten classrooms, the open areas, and two game areas. Children’s Day, celebrated on November 14 in India, was a rather special one. And not just for the school children.
Even while Voluntarism is instilled in the students of Ahmedabad University through the mandatory course, Engagement With Society, when the Fine Arts Club invited volunteers to participate in a project titled Rang-De-Pathshala, 300 was hardly the number they were expecting. “I would say over 80 per cent of our volunteers are First Years at Ahmedabad University, and that’s heartening to witness. Voluntarism is a core value of our University, and we are overwhelmed by the student response and the reactions we are getting on the ground. Most of the children wanted us to paint monkeys, and when the first set of monkeys came up, we received thunderous applause,” says Secretary of the Fine Arts Club, Nisha Nankani, a Class of 2023 student pursuing BBA (Hons) from the Amrut Mody School of Management. Now in its second year, Rang-De-Pathshala was started with the objective of painting murals in the city’s government-run schools to assist in teaching, initiate hygiene maintenance, and beautify the institution. “These schools have rudimentary facilities but are crucial to providing no-cost learning. How do we make learning more engaging and effective and instil a sense of maintaining hygiene and aesthetics in the environment? That was a question we sought to address with this initiative,” says Vaibhav Kadia, Assistant Dean of Student Engagement, Office of the Dean of Students.
Since Ellisbridge School is attended by children of grades I to V in the mornings and Grades VI to VIII in the afternoons, the volunteers divided the art in every classroom. The lower half of the class walls worked as a visual aid for primary language and math concepts, while the upper half was planned for higher-grade lessons, especially around the sciences. Students even designed two game areas for the school children.
Mandakini Makhija, Principal of Ellisbridge School Number 30, was visibly pleased with the efforts of the University students. She and her team of educators actively worked with the students to develop ideas for the educational murals. “We gave them our textbooks highlighting what we wanted as teaching aids on our walls. They, too, came up with some brilliant ideas. The interesting part was how open these students were to change. When we suggested an alternative to an artwork they had already executed, they understood us and completely whitewashed the wall and redid the work. As for our students, they are thrilled with the transformation, as you can see!”
The work, however, is beyond that reflected on the colourful walls and the smiling faces of the school students. For the Fine Arts Club, the project started three months ago by identifying the school they would work with. Professor Kadia outlines the exhaustive work done by the Club. “What seemed like an art initiative has given them 360° exposure to handling a project. They had to approach the civic authorities to seek permission, present a project report of their previous work (last year with another school), and prepare in advance for the artwork here that would have to be aligned with the curriculum and yet be creative.”
“We are glad that with the Smart Schools initiative of the local government, many government-run schools are getting transformed. Ellisbridge School was among the remaining few yet untouched by this initiative. Next year, we will look for other similar causes to which we can put our energies. The process of identifying the cause and executing the project is something we have truly gained from, and we are thankful we have had the opportunity to,” says Nisha.