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Pashtepada teacher makes history with solar-smart school

A primary school teacher in a small hamlet called Pashtepada, in Thane district’s Shahapur taluka, is hitting headlines.

Sandip Gund, 27, has converted his small zilla parishad school into a “solar-smart school,” with no financial assistance from the government. Over 40 schools in Thane, Yavatmal and other districts have already replicated Gund’s model and have started offering digital shalas this year.

His attempt is drawing attention even from other states and officials from Assam and Gujarat are in Pashtepada to study the ‘Gund model’.

Gund’s school caters to just 25 students. Here, children don’t have to carry textbooks and notebooks. All they have to bring is their solar-charged tablets, which have their textbooks uploaded, and a digital pen.

Tablets are connected to a projector and teachers oversee mathematical calculations and other classwork. Kids can play pre-stored educational games, share information with teachers and fellow students through flash transfer. The school evaluates their e-records and prepares results.

Gund, who hails from Ahmednagar district, says: “Google has been my biggest technical support. Farmers and parents, who believed in me, pooled in money to transform the school. They are my moral support.”

Most of the students are children of farmers or farm labourers. Gund’s model has arrested the dropout rate of the school.

“Kids hardly had any interest in studies till a few years ago. They had seen their elder siblings and other children dropping out of school due to “boring” teaching. They now bring their devices home and connect then with TV sets to show their work to their parents,” says Gund, one of the two teachers (the other is the principal), tutoring class 1-5.

Gund who has a master’s in Marathi had no technical knowledge till five years ago. “Since Pashtepada doesn’t have Internet facilities and suffers from long power cuts, especially during school hours, I started visiting an Internet cafe at Shahapur taluka every weekend to understand the technology of solar panels, projectors and tablets.”

He researched and experimented for a year and then came up with a model for his school.

Maha govt takes cognisance

The Maharashtra government is working on a plan to convert 500 schools into digital shala by next year. Prakash Thube, joint secretary, school education department, said: “Gund’s work is laudable and needs to go to every school which struggles for power and bandwidth. A plan is being chalked out and it would be disclosed in some time.”

“While most people look at government for funds, Gund didn’t take a single rupee from the government. This is just unbelievable,” he said.

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