K. C. Thackeray Vidya Niketan, Pune
K. C. Thackeray Vidya Niketan’s belief in children begins with seeing them as citizens today. Focusing on authentic learning experiences, character development and meaningful community partnerships, Vidya Niketan aims to transform society by addressing root causes of inequity and injustice.
Life at Vidya Niketan
K.C. Thackeray Vidya Niketan is a rare kind of government school. Located in the heart of Pune, the school is meant for children from low-income communities. Children at Vidya Niketan come from a range of difficult life circumstances – some who live under the bridges, and on the streets, and some who are in organized gangs in Pune city.
The core idea
Aware of this reality, the school has built a strong ethos of social activism towards leading change. The school has supplemented the government school curriculum by projects and books which allow students to explore their identities as agents of change. A history teacher takes her students on a practical Satyagraha, and an English teacher asks her students to do a project on juvenile delinquency, even as they explore the English language. Further, children are exposed to works like Trash and Everybody Loves a Good Drought, which allow them to start seeing the world from a range of different perspectives.
The results of this perspective-building can been seen clearly with teachers and children leading initiatives such as river restoration and waste management. Students have not only been able to link their own actions with larger social issues (visiting a nearby river, seeing it clogged with garbage, and coming back to make cloth bags to use for themselves), but have also responded to issues like sexual-harassment in the school campus itself.
Vidya Niketan is the first of the network of Akanksha schools, set up as a public-private partnership between Akanksha Foundation and Thermax Social Initiatives Foundation, both non-profits, and the Pune Municipal Corporation. Akanksha schools demonstrate that children in government schools can get access to quality education in as much, or even lower, per child cost as allocated. Vidya Niketan’s influence on this network of schools cannot be understated - serving as not only the incubator for innovation within the school, but also for talent for the network and for the sector at large.
Vidya Niketan is successfully demonstrating that an education built around changemaking allows children from all backgrounds to thrive and create their own success stories. As more and more public-private partnerships begin to emerge in the country, Vidya Niketan aims to make their model for changemaker education not only relevant but also sought after – by governments and by civil society.
Shalini Sachdev, comes with a strong background in social change and education. As a student social worker, she set up a woman-child welfare cell in a police station. Soon after graduation, she joined the Rahul Bose Foundation, and here, it was her experience in government schools in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which proved pivotal for her. Seeing government schools not only functioning well, but building pride in children over their own heritage, Shalini started seeing hope for education in the country. Returning to Maharashtra, Shalini decided to direct her life towards creating a school where she might be able to allow children to grow with joy, and see their own ability to make a difference. It is this which propelled her towards becoming the school leader of the first Akanksha school, where she continues today.
1. Archana Deshpande, Teacher and Jr School Team Lead
2. Amar Pol, Teacher and Sr School Team Lead
3. Kalyani Sohoni, Social Worker
4. Prashant Deshmukh, CentralCurriculum Team lead for Hind and Marathi
5. Soleha Khan, Vice Principal