Published: 31st October 2017
Good Harvest School reaps equality and social justice in the right dose and, gives girls opportunities for growth
The Good Harvest School is a one-of-a-kind green school that teaches young girls valuable lessons on agricultural practices along with their regular subjects
In a country like India, with 80 per cent of women in rural areas performing agriculture-related work, what are the chances of a farmer's daughter studying in a school that not only teaches the regular syllabus, but also newer farming techniques? The Good Harvest School, located in the remote village of Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, is one such school that aims to provide quality education to farmers' daughters without asking for a penny in return. The initiative started by Ashita Nath and her husband, Anish, aims to the bridge the gap between education and social upliftment by empowering young girls of the village and also to revive the dying agricultural sector.
“Our vision at The Good Harvest School is to see long-term changes. We are providing quality education to girls by teaching them sustainable methods," says Ashita.
Full power: The school, which started with its first batch of six students in the year 2016, currently has 25 students in three different classes
"We did not plan to open a school initially. My husband started a small animal farm in 2013. Before that, we worked in Delhi for seven to eight years. We decided to go back to our hometown in Lucknow and do something meaningful," says Ashita. She even started teaching at a nearby school. It was at this point when she noticed the preferential treatment by the villagers.
"Even today, parents prefer to send their boys to school, while girls stay back to do household chores. So we decided to open our farm doors to these girls and give them the same quality of education as city-based school," says Ashita.
Eager minds: The school aims to teach its students all that has been deprived of them in the villages
Like a modern-day gurukul, at The Good Harvest School, both teachers and students stay at the farmhouse. "We have a good stock of play material. We have cows, rabbits, ducks and plenty of greenery. But more than all this, I think what has really helped us is living among them. From Monday to Friday we stay at the school," says Ashita. More than being a school that stresses on academics, here the importance is given to the well-being of each student. "We don't push academics on them. It is important for them to feel safe and happy at the school. Whenever we enrol a new student, we have a long discussion with the parents and try to understand their background," she explains.
Over the course of the years, what the couple has noticed in their village is the failure of the agricultural sector to adapt and innovate, resulting in a lack of interest among youngsters to follow in their traditional line. Another peculiar aspect was the role of women in farming. "From selecting seeds, preparing and sowing them to transplanting the seedlings, applying manure and then harvesting, winnowing and threshing, women stay longer out on the field than men. Yet, we fail to recognise their hard work," says Anish.
Sustainable Education: The school aims to groom and educate young girls on all things deemed necessary from math to hygiene and basic knowledge to agriculture
"Our mission is to groom young girls from the beginning to make the right choices, whether it is about defecating in the open or discouraging their parents from selling their field," he adds. Each year, the school picks one major crop to grow along with seasonal vegetables. While they harvested potato last year, this year it'll be marigold. From selecting seeds to post-harvest management, the girls will be actively involved the entire 4 to 6 months of the marigold farming period.