Girivanvasi Educational Trust (GVET) was founded by Padmabhushan Pujya Karamshibhai Jethabhai Somaiya in 1991. It runs the Nareshwadi Learning Centre (NLC), located on a 12 acre campus in the lush green environs of the Experimental Farm of Girivanvasi Pragati Mandal (GVPM) which Karamshibhai founded in 1974 as an Integrated Rural Development model. NLC comprises the Leelaben Kotak Primary School, the K J Somaiya Secondary School, the Vocational Education and Training Centre (VETC), hostels for girls and boys, the Children’s Home approved by Women & Child Welfare Department of the Government of Maharashtra, the School Health Centre and the School Farm and Nursery. The NLC campus is surrounded by paddy fields and a fruit orchard abundant with mango, coconut and chickoo (sapota) trees, contributing to an ambience of spontaneous creativity and learning.
Children admitted to Nareshwadi are from underprivileged families, aged 5 to 17 years and study from 1st to 10th grade. Ninety-five per cent are from the local Warli tribal community with a few Kokanas, Katkari and Dodhi. About ten per cent are children of single parents or no parents, HIV infected and affected families.
Since 2010 NLC has been closely engaged with the community as part of its Village Improvement Programme. NLC, in partnership with its sister institution GVPM, conducts training workshops for the children’s families and communities to start agriculture-based livelihood activities in their own villages thus curbing migration and getting more children into school.
Nareshwadi staff work together, to create a compassionate and conducive learning environment, where children can grow up to be transformational leaders of their community as envisioned by our Founder.
Vision, Mission, Values and Governance
Empowering each child to reach his or her dream.
Nareshwadi Learning Centre nourishes the physical, intellectual, emotional as well as spiritual development of each child by providing an innovative education, caring home environment and fostering community involvement.
Nareshwadi believes that
- Children’s education leads to development of the community
- Investing in education for girls leads to empowered women.
- The children are the future.
- Every child must be given a chance to follow her/his dreams.
- The underprivileged have the same rights as the privileged.
- Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development are an integral part of education.
- All members of Team Nareshwadi along with the children, their families and communities should be involved in improvement of child quality
A workshop to develop NLC’s logo was held on July 15 2007, in which all 500 Nareshwadi children from the 1st to 10th std participated. When asked what they miss most about Nareshwadi when away from school, children spontaneously responded: “Teachers, school building, hostel, coconut trees, children playing, water pump, even toilets, milk van, chikoos!” The 500 drawings of the proposed Nareshwadi logo revealed not only huge creativity but also appreciation for the improvements in the school over the past years. Sixteen drawings were short listed by a committee of children and staff and awarded.
The first prize went to 12-year old Jitesh Bhavar, who added a motto to his drawing of a maze: “Only if you look for the way will you find it.” As Jitesh says: “The logo shows Nareshwadi as a labyrinth, where we have arrived and have to find our own way to our future. Nareshwadi helps us find the way.” Jitesh’s prize winning entry is GVET’s official logo.
Jitesh Bharvad Creator of GVET Logo
Jitesh Bharvad, age 19 years, lost his mother when was barely 9 years old. She was an Aanganwadi worker and he has fond memories of her. He then lost his alcoholic father at age 11. His maternal uncle brought him to Nareshwadi’s Balgruh (Children’s Home) in the 7th std.
At GVET’s Logo Design Workshop in 2007-08 Jitesh’s concept was selected for logo. He passed his 10th board exam (SSC) in 2011 with 70% marks and joined the Industrial Training Centre in Jawhar, Thane District, obtaining his ITI Diploma with 66% in July 2012. But this could not get him a decent job and he is now studying Science in the Junior College in S K Somaiya Vinay Mandir sponsored by Help a Child.
Samir Somaiya took over the reins of GVET as its Chairperson in 2010. An alumnus of Cornell University, with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Chemical Engineering, topped with a Masters in Business Administration, Samir Somaiya also has a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University. He is the Vice President of Somaiya Vidyavihar and heads several educational institutions. Deeply committed to quality education Samir Somaiya’s personal involvement in NLC has driven several quality improvements. Under his leadership, the Board of Trustees meets regularly and is engaged with NLC’s activities.
Team Nareshwadi is headed by Dr Patricia Gokhale, a Ph D in Industrial Psychology with vast experience in the development sector. Her previous assignments of improving quality in schools, income generation for disadvantaged women and in mainstreaming gender concerns in project planning has brought a multi-disciplinary approach to NLC’s projects. NLC’s school principal, Babasaheb Pawar, is a Master’s in Marathi literature and Bachelor’s in Education. NLC’s team comprises 19 teachers with teaching diplomas/ degrees, 7 VETC instructors with diplomas in their specific technical fields ranging from agriculture to IT, 2 local Warli artists to teach Warli Art, 2 nurses, an athletics coach, a music teacher, 2 counselors with Masters in Social Work and 3 agricultural diploma holders.
Team Nareshwadi comprises 47% women and 45% staff are from tribal heritage.
Somaiya Employees Support
In 2012 Team Somaiya collected Rs 11 lakhs through its participation in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. Employees generously donated one day’s salary to fund the construction of “Ganga” which comprised a large classroom and 2 admin blocks. In the year 2013 the employees participated in the Mumbai Marathon and raised Rs 5.52 lakhs for renovating the boys’ hostel.
Funding support for constructing “Ganga” initially came from Women’s Empowerment International Foundation (WEIF), Canada. The project was completed with Team Somaiya’s contribution. In 2016 Rallis India Limited constructed an upper floor for the school library as part of their CSR. As all classes are now run in the new school building, the spacious classroom is converted into the computer laboratory with 25 computers.
Thanks to the joint initiatives of its management, staff, partners, as well as volunteers, donors and supporters, NLC accomplished the following in the last 5 years:
Higher enrolment of girls - Through a focused policy of providing girls greater access, NLC enrolment for girls has gone up from 22% in 2006-07 to 46 % in 2014-15. Traditionally, tribal girls would be taken out of school mid way to marry even before they turned 15 years. NLC’s safe residential facilities for girls has encouraged more parents to let their daughters complete their matriculation. With sponsorships, more girls are aspiring for higher education and delaying marriage and motherhood.
Improvement in academic performance – The passing percentage at the 10th board exam in 2005-06 was 13%. With improved teaching-learning methodologies the pass percentage has been between 78% and 100%. Teachers have received training by the Rishi Valley Institute for Educational Resources (RIVER), the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, and the Maharashtra Dyslexia Association in improved teaching – learning. They are also deputed to training workshops in their specific subject areas. The Focused Learning Initiative started in 2011 and supported by Cognizant Technologies focuses on language and math development from the 1st to 4th std. This has improved reading, writing and numeracy.
Science Awards – Students are encouraged to go beyond the standard curriculum and extend their knowledge and skills. Every year students win awards not only at the block level but also have show-cased their projects at the District level. In 2011-12 Sridevi Kumbhar, a 7th grader, received the Inspire Award from the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The award is meant to promote science in schools. Sridevi’s project on the banana tree, titled “Kalpavrksh” (“The Miracle Plant”) was one of two projects (of 80 from local schools) selected to compete at the state level. That same year, Chandani Tiwari and Bavil Giri also of the 7 grade, presented their project on the Moringa (“drum stick tree”) and were selected to represent Dahanu Taluka at the district level. They were awarded certificates.
Excellence in sports – Girls and boys participate in sports competitions at the block, district, divisional and state level inter school competitions. Coached by experienced sports teachers, they continuously rank among the top 10 rural school athletes, as well as in khabadi and khokho. Some of NLC’s children are in the top 6 at the state level.
Improved health through 24-hour health care – A 24-hour School Health Centre was set up in 2007 with support from ANZBAI (Australian & New Zealand Business Association in India, Mumbai). This has resulted in reduced absenteeism at school and in the drop-out rate due to poor health. Comprehensive medical health checks and adequate treatment are carried out per school term. In 2007 almost 98% of the children had scabies. Barely a handful of children suffer from scabies today brought in by new enrolments, which is quickly treated and not allowed to spread. Likewise, 67% suffered from night blindness. With the administration of Vitamin A and improved diets this was addressed. A health database is in place for each child to track their health history and to counsel parents and guardians.
Improved health through nutritious diet – Nutritious menus are planned based on seasonal vegetables cultivated in the School Farm. The 2-acre School Farm was supported by NautaDutilh, Brussels. The School Dairy set up with the support of WEIF, has added milk to their daily diet. This has led to fewer ailments resulting in continuous attendance at school and improvement in learning.
Vocational education, training and job placement – Children from 7th to 9th std (age 12 to 15) spend 2 hours each day rotated in batches across various skill training. The VETC provides training in IT, plumbing, garment making and Warli art for both girls and boys. By the time the children complete 10 years of school they are proficient in the skill of their choice enabling them to earn while they pursue higher education.
Enrolment in higher education - Since 2007 NLC has secured sponsorships for several of its children after passing secondary school and seeking admission to higher education. Sponsorships from Help a Child, WEIF and some individual donors have enabled NLC’s children become qualified teachers, engineers, mechanics, etc. Presently, 2 tribal girls are studying electronics engineering and social work.
Pooja was 12 years old when she came to Nareshwadi along with her younger brother and sister. The children were on the streets after the death of their parents when her paternal uncle drove them out of their hut in the slum behind the K J Somaiya Hospital. SAHAS (Somaiya Action for HIV/AIDS Support) brought the children to Nareshwadi.
Pooja is now 21 years old and is studying for her Senior Secondary Exam to be held in April 2015. She is supported by Help a Child and lives on the Vidyavihar Campus.
While in the Nareshwadi school, she learnt garment making as part of the school’s vocational training programme and is now proficient in sewing. She wants to go to college and study psychology so she can become a counselor. Pooja has been invited to participate in the Seminar on Nonviolent Communication (Standing on her feet!) by the Karl Kübel Stiftung, Germany, in October 2014. The seminar will be held in Ruhpolding and has participants from across the world. This is a great learning opportunity for Pooja facilitated by GVET.
Pramila Bhavar is 19 years and one of 6 siblings. She belongs to the Warli community and lives in Gadadpada Divshi, a poor remote village about 45 km from Nareshwadi. Her parents are marginal farmers who grow paddy during monsoon and migrate for most of the year in search of work. Only her 2 younger siblings go to school. Pramila harnessed her talents for learning and athletics at Nareshwadi, earning top marks and placing 6th in the State’s Inter-schools Rural Sports 800 metres.
She is now pursuing her Diploma in Electronics in a leading Polytechnic in Mumbai after she scored 78% in the 10th board exams in March 2012. She is the first person from her village to embark on an engineering career.
In 2012 her mother Jatri was one of 108 women farmers that GVET helped cultivate vegetables, marigold and jasmine as part of the Village Improvement Programme supported by CIDA. A year later Jatri and family stopped migrating and tend to their floriculture and vegetable farm.
Pramila spends time with her family during vacation and loves going home.