‘Better than JNVs’: UP’s Atal Awasiya Vidyalayas allow labourers’ children to dream big

Children of UP’s labourers dream big at the free residential CBSE schools, Atal Awasiya Vidyalayas, modelled on the JNVs.

The academic staff of Atal  Residential Schools are all retired teachers of KVs, JNVs, and Sainik Schools. (Image Source: Atal Awasiya Vidyalaya website)The academic staff of Atal Residential Schools are all retired teachers of KVs, JNVs, and Sainik Schools. (Image Source: Atal Awasiya Vidyalaya website)

Sanjay | February 22, 2024 | 10:56 AM IST

VARANASI/PRAYAGRAJ: Swati Singh, a Class 6 student of Atal Awasiya Vidyalaya (AAV), Varanasi, wants to become a doctor. Daughter of a labourer registered with the Uttar Pradesh government’s labour department, Singh is happy to be receiving quality education at one of the 18 state-run residential schools in Uttar Pradesh.

Before AAV Varanasi, she was in a private school in Varanasi. “Inspired by my elder sister who is preparing for the entrance test for medicine, I want to become a doctor. I am receiving better education here. Teachers are always available and we can approach them whenever we need help,” Singh told Careers360.

For the first time, more than 1,400 students currently enrolled in Class 6 in UP government-run residential schools are dreaming big. Many hope to become administrators, police officers and judges. They all are children of labourers and construction workers who, says the AAV official website, will be encouraged to “actively contribute to their communities and make a positive impact on society”.

18 Atal Awasiya Vidyalayas

Atal residential schools, one in each of the 18 divisions of Uttar Pradesh, provide quality and free education to children of labourers. The scheme is implemented by Uttar Pradesh Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (UPBOCW), department of labour.

The foundation of AAVs was laid on Uttar Pradesh Day – January 24, 2020. Land was acquired and construction started soon after. Principals, teachers and other staff were recruited from December 2022 to August 2023 and from September, they were ready to receive the first batch.

On September 23, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 16 of the 18 schools, built at a cost of about Rs 1,115 crore. The 2023-24 academic session began from September itself. The construction of two more schools, in Bareilly and Moradabad divisions, is complete and the 2024-25 academic session will begin at all 18 schools from April.

The 16 schools that have been launched are recognised by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for Classes 6 to 10.

“As the construction of Atal schools was incomplete in Bareilly and Moradabad division for the 2023-24 session, we accommodated students from these two divisions in other Atal schools nearby. We will relocate them to Bareilly and Moradabad division this year as infrastructure to accommodate them is ready now,” said Shivam Sharma, project manager, Atal Awasiya Vidyalaya Samiti, Lucknow. They are in the process of being recognised by CBSE as well.

AAV admission

The AAVs’ constituency are parents among whom awareness of new programmes is generally low. Therefore, staff-members call parents and guardians of eligible children about admission.

Suresh Chandra, principal of AAV Prayagraj, said that the school team called nearly 2,000 labourers whose children were eligible for admission from Prayagraj district alone. “We get data from the labour department. We tell labourers about the facilities, the admission process, and documents needed for admission,” he said.

Like the centrally-run Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, admission to Classes 6 and 9 in AAVs is based on entrance tests. For the 2024-25 academic csession, the exam will be held on February 25.

Last year 1,440 students were admitted to Class 6. This year, there are 2,520 seats each in Classes 6 and 9. The government has reserved 50% seats for girls.

Apart from the wards of labourers and construction workers, children orphaned during the Covid-19 pandemic who are currently in the care of institutions under the women and child development department are also eligible.

Bridge courses, remedial classes

Last year, all Atal schools conducted baseline surveys to check the current level of competencies of children in Class 6. Based on the results, Atal Awasiya Vidyalaya Samiti planned educational activities to improve learning, including bridge courses.

“Similarly, we are designing separate Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Class 9 and planning to provide a bridge course to Class 9 students during holidays. We do not know their educational backgrounds, so we will use both Hindi and English versions of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) books. Teachers will also take remedial classes to help them,” said Sharma.

Also read Despite CBSE’s push for regional languages, schools prefer English

Atal Awasiya Vidyalaya Samiti

AAVs are being run on the lines of JNVs. Both are residential schools affiliated to CBSE. In January, 2023, the UP government set up the Atal Awasiya Vidyalaya Samiti in Lucknow to manage the schools.

“This samiti is responsible for smoothly running, operating and monitoring the residential schools. It is a registered society and functions under UPBOCW. Framing rules and regulations, SOPs, monitoring and planning their smooth functioning are among the key responsibilities of this samiti,” Sharma said.

Atal Awasiya Vidyalaya recruitment

The academic staff of Atal Schools are all retired teachers of JNVs, Sainik Schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs), considered the top line in government school education.

In 2023, AAV Samiti recruited 18 retired JNV or Sainik School principals to lead the schools and 18 former army gazetted officers as administrative officers.

It also recruited 198 trained graduate teachers (TGT) who retired from JNVs, Sainik schools, KVs and UP Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad (UPMSP) schools. Each school has one principal, an administrative officer and 11 teachers but everyone is on contract for one year.

“Since these are one-of-a-kind schools, we decided to hire experienced teachers and officials for one year on contract basis as we wanted to ensure discipline and smooth administration. These experienced teachers understand students’ mental status and have spent their lives dealing with them positively. They know how to deal with homesickness and help them adjust in a new environment. Inexperienced teachers and young professionals would not have managed these schools well,” Sharma explained.

As all 18 Atal schools will also start Class 9 this year, a total of 90 Postgraduate teachers (PGT) and 58 TGT are being recruited on contract basis. Only retired teachers from JNVs, KVs, Sainik Schools and UPMSP schools are eligible to be part of the recruitment drive.

The Samiti is working on service rules and after approval, it will conduct direct recruitment on a permanent basis. Teachers will be appointed through the newly-formed Uttar Pradesh Education Service Selection Commission.

“When we do fresh recruitment after one year, these experienced teachers will hand-hold the newly-recruited ones,” Sharma said.

‘Big uplift’

Vinay Kumar Dwivedi, in Class 6 at AAV Prayagraj, finds his new school “better than my previous school in my village”. Akriti, who attended a primary school in Ghazipur till Class 5, likes the environment of AAV Varanasi better. “The school has all the facilities. We all attend remedial classes to improve our English,” she said. Both children aspire to be IAS officers.

Soni Kumari, at AAV Varanasi, wants to become an IPS officer. “From 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm, we do physical activities like long jump, running and rope pulling etc. My physical strength is improving and I think this will help me achieve my dream,” she said.

Saif Ali Khan from Chandauli is just happy with the labs at AAV Varanasi. “We have an astronomy lab, chemistry, biology and physics and computer labs here,” he said.

Sharma said that the Atal residential schools have provided a “big uplift” to these children who would have ended up living the same life as their parents in absence of this scheme. “An educated child from a family would raise the standard of an entire generation of his or her family,” he said.

Better than private

Former JNV principal and current AAV Prayagraj principal Chandra believes that Atal residential schools are better than JNVs.

“In a JNV class, 75% of students are from the rural areas and 25% from the urban areas. The AAV has only labourers’ children who are full of enthusiasm. They took around a week to get adjusted here. We talked to them politely, helped them get over their homesickness, and now they are happy here,” he said.

Chandra added that AAVs have better hostels. “Here, we have five to six students sharing a room compared to 20 students in JNVs. Here, the mess is attached to the hostel. We have two smart classrooms, a computer lab and a science lab. Safety standards are higher. We have security guards at all the gates. We are fitting around 200 cameras on the boundary walls,” he elaborated.

Dr Amar Nath Rai, principal, AAV Varanasi, said that the AAV scheme is the dream project of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. “The labourers who migrate from one place to another would have never imagined that their children will study in such an excellent school. But it is a reality now. My students are better than most of the students from big private schools in this region. We are focusing on improving their English through drama, poetry and other activities,” said Rai. “As we are a new school, we are facing some minor glitches in coordinating with the labour and education departments and the local administration. However, we get their support.”

In place of vice-principals, AAVs have administrative officers in retired army officers. As administrative officer of AAV Varanasi, Captain Satish Kumar Singh’s responsibilities include ensuring the safety, sanitation and health of students. “We also provide them physical training so that they can participate in competitions,” he said.

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