The story of Seksaria Girls’ School in Nawalgarh

Seksaria Girls’ School, Nawalgarh, Rajasthan

This is the story of Seksaria Girls’ School in Nawalgarh, a district in Rajasthan. The school was established in 1927 by Govindram Seksaria, a prominent Marwari business tycoon. Despite being fluent only in Marwari, Govindram’s reputation as an astute trader transcended language barriers. Even traders from the New York Exchange sought his advice on cotton trade in the 1940s, when travel was much more challenging than it is today. Later in his life, Govindram became a successful businessman by founding the Seksaria business house in Bombay (now Mumbai).

After India gained independence, the government chose to fully fund the Seksaria Girls’ School, following the trend of supporting progressive schools in Rajasthan. However, in 2011, the funding was abruptly withdrawn, resulting in significant financial and psychological damage. Consequently, the school experienced a decline in student enrolment and a drop in board exam results. Despite facing numerous challenges, such as a student body predominantly consisting of economically vulnerable backgrounds, including children from the lowest rank of the informal job sector like vegetable vendors, helpers in private grocery shops, and daily wage laborers, the school continued its operations. Additionally, more than 50% of the students in the school belonged to the Muslim community, as their families preferred a girls’ school over coeducation institutions.

The transition from a grant-in-aid school to a private institution led to many teachers leaving and joining government schools, necessitating the appointment of fresh teachers. This posed its own set of problems, as the new teachers lacked experience and confidence in teaching. Consequently, the board exam results suffered, and more privileged students from the existing cohort chose to leave the school, resulting in a decline in student enrollment and school revenue. However, just before the onset of the Covid pandemic, the students and teachers came together to overcome these challenges. As the Education Advisor of Vidya Bhawan Society, Udaipur, I had the privilege of being part of the team that spearheaded this effort.

Remarkably, the board exam results, after many years, improved significantly this year, reaching a respectable level. In the commerce stream of Class 12, 9 out of 10 students achieved First Division, while 1 student received Second Division. In Class 10, out of 40 students, 21 obtained a first division, and 19 achieved a second division. For the first time in recent memory since 2011, the school achieved a cent percent pass rate in Class 10 and 12, with no students failing or obtaining a third division.

Furthermore, two students from Muslim families scored above 90% in Class 12. In the commerce stream, 10 out of 13 students achieved First Division, and 3 students received Second Division. In the humanities stream, 10 out of 17 students achieved First Division, while 7 students received Second Division.

This remarkable transformation can be attributed to the abandonment of conventional methods of achieving good results. The success can be attributed to empowering students to think critically. Encouraging students to ask questions, as a part of teaching–learning, became an essential indicator of the teachers’ ability to foster learning through critical thinking. As teachers, we learned to approach students’ questions with humility, responding with a simple yet powerful phrase: “Let us find out,” instead of giving the impression that teacher’s possess all the knowledge. Through a dialectic approach to learning, teachers and students came together in search of the best context for knowledge acquisition. Both teachers and students realized that there is no universal context for learning; learners must discover the contexts that help them learn best. The experience and knowledge of the teachers assisted them in reaching the optimal context in the shortest possible time.

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