By Himanshu Vatsa
Begusarai (Bihar),(IANS) A school for the poor in Bihar, inspired by Rancho's iconic school in Bollywood blockbuster "3 Idiots", has been opened by a scientist to teach complex science theories through games and interactive workshops.
Sudhir Kumar, a scientist working in the biotechnology laboratory of the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Pune, has set up a school in his native village of Mirzapur Chand in Bihar's Begusarai district, about 110 km from Patna.
"Besides formal education up to Class 6, explanation of complex theories of science through fun and interactive workshops conducted by a panel of scientists will be part of the school's curriculum," Sudhir Kumar, an assistant professor at IIIT-Pune, told IANS.
The school, which opened Sunday, has a staggered fee structure -- free of cost for the poor and different slabs for children with different economic backgrounds.
The governing body of the school will verify the family income of each student and will decide the fee accordingly. Richer parents will be charged more so that education of poor children can be subsidised.
"Education will be free for children belonging to families having no farm land or those of labourers, while kids of well-off parents such as landowners, businessmen, transport contractors, builders, government and private employees having regular income will be charged a monthly fee ranging from Rs. 50 to Rs. 100," said Sunil Kumar, the principal of the school.
The school will be financially supported by a panel of scientists, including Naibedya Chattopadhyay, deputy director, Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow; Manavi Chatterjee, senior research fellow, Pharmacology Division, CDRI; and Tanaya De, former research fellow, Endocrinology Division, CDRI.
Besides them, international researchers who are extending support to the effort include Shawon Lahiri, Laussane University, Switzerland; Anchal Gussain, Chicago University; Rajiv Kumar Jain, Tartu University, Estonia; Ajay Kumar Srivastava, Seoul University, South Korea; and Elo Madissoon, a research fellow in Karolinska Institute. They will also conduct regular workshops in the school.
"Lectures would be organised with the help of guest faculty who are experts in different walks of life. Students can also interact with their teachers through video-conferencing," said Kumar.
"The idea of having a school where poor children are encouraged to study science came to my mind many years back. Being a scientist, it is my responsibility to simplify the scientific theory so that they can be utilised by a layman and thus can be more useful for society," said Kumar.
Initially, the school will enrol 50-100 students in the first batch. The number will increase later as per the infrastructure and availability of teachers.
"After Class 6, our focus will be to get the students admitted to high-end schools such as Sainik School, Tilaiya, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalay and Netarhat Vidyalay and avail scholarship schemes offered by the government for high school students," he said, adding: "We are also planning to start classes up to 12th standard in this school".
The classrooms would be equipped with projector screens, computers, internet and all the modern facilities and the children will be encouraged to participate in different activities such as art, music, dance and theatre, he said.
"Before the regular session begins in January next year, classes will be conducted specially for dropouts from September so that they can be registered with open schools," said Satya Narayan Singh, one of the patrons of the school.
The school will be run by around 10 staff members, including retired teachers -- Baidyanath Choudhary and Satya Narayan Singh -- and CDRI's deputy director Naibedya Chattopadhyay as patrons. While Sunil Kumar is the principal, Priyank Kumar, Kundan Sah and Sunil Sharma are teachers. The regular teachers will be paid a consolidated salary of Rs.1,000 per month.
Begusarai is the industrial hub of Bihar. Apart from the Indian Oil Corporation's oil refinery in Barauni, it houses at least 200 small and big industries in an area of seven to eight kilometres. With the population dominated by landowners and farmers, the district also provides livelihood for businessmen, workers and transport contractors coming from other parts of the state.