I have been wanting to visit the campus of VidhyaGyan Bulandshahr, from the time I read about this philanthropic venture of the Shiv Nadar Foundation. Finally, in 2017, I had an opportunity to visit VidyaGyan Bulandshahr on an invite from the Shiv Nadar Foundation itself, in the capacity of an education blogger.
The last few months have been inspiring and exhilarating with short and long road trips. Usually, I travel to family destinations, heritage sites, ancient ruins, and monumental places to satisfy my penchant for architecture, doors, intriguing information et al.
However, the much-anticipated trip to VidyaGyan Bulandshahr with my ten-year-old kiddo proved to be an eye-opener and a humbling experience, and how!
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An inspiring visit to VidyaGyan at Bulandshahr
On a bright sunny weekday, as we crossed the concrete laden Greater Noida(India) with perfect yet eerie roads, the landscape changed dramatically. It appeared as if we had ventured into an altogether another world.
Away from the hobnob of Delhi NCR, we were driving into an obscure land of Bulandshahr, with bumpy mud roads, dilapidated shops on either side; passing nondescript villages whose main markets were filled with overflowing sewage water and shops dotted with broken roofs; passing thatched huts among the verdant fields of Uttar Pradesh, we took a detour.
Just as we thought we had taken the wrong road, I realized that it wasn’t an incorrect one but a road less taken. The moment this truth dawned, I found a connection with the purpose and inspiration behind VidyaGyan.
What I saw and what I learned at VidyaGyan
Like an oasis amidst an antithetical world, stood the premises of VidyaGyan. One cannot fathom the effort that must have gone into building such a world-class infrastructure in a remote place that is contrastive to the nation’s capital, which is a mere 70 km away.
The best part of my trip was a guided tour of VidyaGyan school, given by two 8th grade students. To be honest, I have been to a couple of other philanthropic ventures in the capacity of an educator. Mostly, either the teachers or the pre-assigned administration staff often conversed with me, as if in a robotic fashion. However, an interaction with these kids at Vidya Gyan, Bulandshahr was a revelation and a breath of fresh air.
A guided tour of VidyaGyan Bulandshahr
My ‘student guides’ were happy to converse in English and were oozing with confidence and enthusiasm to show every nook and corner of the VidyaGyan premises, ecstatic to share with me the achievements of their school, their friends, and, of course of themselves!!!
VidyaGyan — Positive vibes
I could see that VidyaGyan Bulandshahr students were more than happy to be part of the VidyaGyan family, to chart an educative path and a subsequent career for themselves. They took pride in getting selected from the lakhs of children across the state of Uttar Pradesh. They felt wanted and contended in this school. And, were hopeful of bridging the gap between surplus here, at Vidya Gyan, and scarcity of money, food, and shelter at home!
And, this is precisely why I call Vidya Gyan Bulandshahr — an oasis amidst the verdant lands of Uttar Pradesh.
Wondering what is so special about this school and these students? Well, read on…
The concept behind VidyaGyan Bulandshahr
VidyaGyan is a free residential school for meritorious, underprivileged students of rural Uttar Pradesh. These students usually come from families of farmers and daily wage workers, among others across rural Uttar Pradesh with an annual family income of less than a lakh.
Established in 2009 by Shiv Nadar Foundation, VidyaGyan today houses 1900 students across two campuses in UP- VidyaGyan Bulandshahr and VidyaGyan Sitapur. These academies were launched to bridge the urban-rural divide. This, by selecting, nurturing, and developing future leaders from underprivileged communities of rural Uttar Pradesh.
Well, these students indeed need to feel proud that they have been selected for their calibre out of the many lakhs who apply every year.
During my tête-à-tête with Mr.Banerjee — The Principal of VidyaGyan shared the below information and facts :
Every year, VidyaGyan handpicks approximately 200 meritorious students from a pool of 250,000 children who apply from across 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh (UP). They are nurtured until class XII with a world-class education.
Volunteers and teachers from the foundation take great pains in selecting students by helping in invigilating these exams, cross-verifying and doing a background check, and also by creating awareness among the villagers.
The three-stage admission process at VidyaGyan constitutes
- Preliminary written test in all districts of UP.
- Written test for children shortlisted in the preliminary round.
- Interaction with the selected students and their families.
Eligibility criteria for VidyaGyan
- Applicants should be studying in Grade V in a rural school.
- Age of girls should be less than or equal to 13 years and the age of boys should be less or equal to 12 years
- Students should belong to rural, low-income households (with a combined family income of not more than Rs.1 lakh per annum).
The USP of VidyaGyan Bulandshahr
A fully residential academy, VidyaGyan not only takes care of the education of its students but of all their needs. VidyaGyan addresses social imbalances, and, envisions nurturing and creating leaders who would be an inspiration and role model for their families, communities, and society at large. The foundation hopes that this will raise many more aspirations.
Mr.Banerjee also informed me that the sheer number of applicants every year has been overwhelming and choosing genuinely ‘in-need’ children is quite a big challenge.
Milestones of VidyaGyan Bulandshahr
- VidyaGyan Bulandshahr was set up in 2009 and in 2017, the second batch of its students graduated (Grade XII) from the school.
- 2017 also marked a milestone for VidyaGyan’s Sitapur campus (established two years after the Bulandshahr campus), as its first batch graduated out of the academy. Students from both the campuses finished class XII with exceptional grades. A total of 380 students passed out of the Academy this year with a whopping 259 students scoring above 80%, out of which 93 students scored above 90%.
- The graduating students have secured admission in India’s top institutions like Delhi University, NIT, Jamia Milia University, Aligarh Muslim University, NIFT, etc. for higher education. Six students also went on to study abroad to prestigious institutions like University of Massachusetts Amherst, Wellesley College, Purdue University, Virginia Tech, Pennsylvania State University and the University of California, Davis
- Apart from regular classes, the students are also prepared for competitive exams and professional studies like IIT-JEE, AIIMS, et al.
I was numb with happiness when Mr.Banerjee informed me that a VidyaGyan Bulandshahr student has been recently selected for the NDA(National Defence Academy). I am more than happy to have this child as an officer in our fraternity. It is heart-warming that one more family will be uplifted because of education at VidyaGyan!
Classrooms, Corridors, and Beyond!
The success of VidyaGyan Bulandshahr does not come as a surprise to me, as the education and infrastructure that the school is providing are top-notch. The Principal and teaching staff are determined and passionate to make a difference in the lives of these children. Their enthusiasm transcends beyond the classrooms and corridors!
The spik and span premises is bound to put the so-called ‘international’ schools to shame.
Every facility from labs to the library to AV rooms is well-stocked and well-utilized.
Corridors of VidyaGyan Bulandshahr vibrantly serve as canvases for a display of the children’s implicit talent.
One of the monthly projects on the Wall
My thoughts on VidyaGyan
I am of the opinion that the fame of VidyaGyan must be wide-spread. The academies have managed to garner the trust of the rural families, just through word of mouth than by advertising. Most of the kids coming from these nondescript villages have huge untapped potential. They are awaiting the right support and trigger to bring their hidden capabilities to the fore. And this is being successfully and effectively tapped by VidyaGyan.
Meandering through those corridors, I was transported to my teaching years in the mountains of Himachal where kids took great pains to attend school and get a basic education.
I know of students who walk up and down hills through dangerous forest trails taking up to 1-2 hours to reach school. If this is not passion and a genuine zeal to study, then I do not know what is !!!
Every time I see a student from well-to-do families in urban schools wasting away their precious years of study in mindless bantering, indisciplined antics, and display of cringe-worthy behaviour when in these temples of education, I am reminded of students from these nondescript villages and towns. This visit to VidyaGyan Bulandshahr made me feel humbled and consoled that discipline and a real passion to study aren’t extant qualities!
These students of VidyaGyan Bulandshahr are indeed passionate, hardworking, creative, cheerful, positive, and responsible enough to understand the worth of this once in a lifetime opportunity provided through a wonderful venture of Shiv Nadar Foundation.
The sapling planted by Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam and his dream for generation next, are both being nurtured with care and love on the premises. Glad that his dream has not withered away but is intact at least inside VidyaGyan Bulandshahr!
How can you and I, make a difference at VidyaGyan?
If living in and around VidyaGyan Bulandshar or its Sitapur campus, feel free to volunteer during weekends. Give pep talks, share the knowledge that may be useful to the students. Maybe perform a JAM session along with these students or just drop in to say a ‘Hi’ to kids!!
I am sure you will take an instant liking to these intelligent, respectful, and affable lot. By the way, my son has decided to share his football tips and tricks with students of class 6 on one of the weekends. And, he himself is a beginner at his coaching class!
Do get in touch with Mr.Banerjee, the Principal of VidyaGyan Bulandshahr, and plan to volunteer.
Kindly feel free to drop in your thoughts and views on ventures like VidyaGyan in the comment section. Keep doing good 🙂
You may also want to read more about VidyaGyan Bulandshahr here: http://www.vidyagyan.in/bulandshahr