A school by the community, for the community and transforming the community

Magneti Marelli world’s leading auto component maker is actively supporting the school education program led by Martin Howard.

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By Martin Howard

I was born in Lincolnshire on the east coast of UK, and educated at the local Grammar School. Born of farming stock I assumed I would be come a farmer, but at the age of 16 I took and passed an exam to join the Royal Navy as an engineer cadet. Flying had always appealed to me, so I opted to become an aeronautical engineer, which led to me getting my wings, and after two front-line appointments as a Sea Vixen, night fighter pilot, I became a test pilot and worked on development of new catapults and arrestor gear to go into Ark Royal to make her compatible with Phantom aircraft, which replaced the Sea Vixen in due course.

I then returned to engineering appointments which put me in charge of our Phantom squadron embarked in Ark and Royal and on promotion to Commander I took charge of that ship’s air engineering department. Then followed jobs ashore, in the Ministry of Defence, in London, which led to my promotion to Captain after which I came to India in 1984 to do the National Defence College course for a year, before becoming the Naval Attache at the British High Commission, for three years.

That was a most enjoyable experience, but with the Berlin Wall, visibly about to fall, I opted to retire from the Navy, a few years prematurely, so at to have more time left for doing other things; That led me, in retirement, to joining Rolls-Royce, specifically to run their regional aerospace office based in Delhi.

After that, my wife Annie, and I, decided to linger in India and see if liberalisation had something to offer, and before anything worthwhile turned up, a friend bought the land where we now live and I built the house on that spot next to the Aravali hills.

When I came to India in 1984, I had a big question-mark over my head –what could anyone ever do about India’s population explosion? And after tree years of building, when the hose was completed it suddenly dawned on me that there was no sign of education in the village – no little wanderings in one way in the morning and back again in the afternoon, even though there were lots of children in evidence; and then it struck me – the only voluntary and only globally effective contraceptive is affluence.

So, I approached to Sarpanch and offered to build him a new primary school in the middle village of the three making up his charge – Gairatpur Baas.

He said, yes I should like that and we will provide the land. We went and discussed it in Gurgaon with the education department and they insisted that three acres should be apportioned, and were. Not being aware of the detailed vagaries of Indian bureaucracy at that stage it was a purely verbal agreement between the Sarpanch and me.

I started to build, and guests staying with us in our house used to enjoy going to see what I was doing, and often volunteered to help me with the funding. I was at that stage building in the vernacular style of column and lintel, as per the existing village school, rather than more inspiring arches; and when I became aware of  the poor quality of existing village education I decided that we had to make ours an independent school, even if that meant having to fund the teachers – no small task. So arches were introduced and ceiling heights raised considerable to make life easier in the hot weather.

After seven years we had six classrooms, a teacher’s three bedroom residence  and a children’s lavatory abs we started teaching in 2007, and l kept on building, and today we have 15 classrooms, and two teacher’s residences, and  separate boys and girls lavatories,  admin offices, a library and a science lab, and a school hall with an adjoining medical centre yet to be commissioned. 

We teach in a liberal interactive manner, and we play sport and do athletics, all of which develops character, curiosity and self-esteem. There is a Montessori nursery where the children play in English for three years before starting primary education, by which time the y are comfortably bi-lingua, which is due course will make them much more readily employable. Our education style is all about life and jobs, rather than certificates, though when our first grade tens took the Haryana exam in April, they all passed, against a state average of 50% passing, and those who chose to go on were readily accepted by senior secondary schools.

A team of Trustees was introduced in 2008 to regularise fund-raising. when teacher’s salaries made much greater demands than building had done. None of the Trustees takes any remuneration for doing their voluntary jobs. And thanks to the energies of the chairman and his astute understanding of the pertinent laws,our FCRA clearance has just been renewed, against a background where so many have not. This reflects the high standards we set our selves.  The foundation purpose of the Trust is to offer a good, bi-lingual education, to every child in the village that chooses to take it up.  Fees are very modest, and pay the salaries of two of our twenty two teachers.

We are now attracting better quality teachers, simply because they like our system and happy in their work, which is reflected in their energy and smiles.

The school has finally shown its capability, and the village are very happy with what we are doing, and lately, some more senior children have been taken away from local expensive schools and enrolled with us, in our Gairatpur Baas Panchayat school. That is the acid test.

Saju Mookken, Country Manager – Magneti Marelli India, “We are extremely proud & honoredto be associated with Mr. Martin, in his noble endeavor to provide quality education for the less-privileged children. In last three years, we have witnessed tremendous growth in the learning and confidence level of these children. I am sure this program will help these students to become better citizen in future and contribute to nation building.”

(Views are personal)

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