Sanskriti Samvardhan Mandal: This Maharashtra school provides underprivileged kids with sports route to a better future

Sanskriti Samvardhan Mandal: This Maharashtra school provides underprivileged kids with sports route to a better future

Sanskriti Samvardhan Mandal: This Maharashtra school provides underprivileged kids with sports route to a better future sagroli sunrise project nanded government jobs sports quota 30stades

Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and Nobel Laureate, once said: “Sport has the power to change the world.” A small village in Maharashtra bears testimony to Mandela’s statement.

A school started by a philanthropist in Sagroli village in the Nanded district of Maharashtra is providing a better future to thousands of underprivileged children through excellence in sports.

Kosh

The Sanskriti Samvardhan Mandal (SSM) was set up in 1959 by Babasaheb Keshav Narayanrao Deshmukh for the education of children from poor socio-economic backgrounds in rural areas. Babasaheb also started Chhatrapati Shivaji High School, a residential school under SSM, to provide students with food, clothes and accommodation along with quality education.

Also Read: How Barmer’s NGO Fifty Villagers is helping underprivileged students become doctors

Today, students from schools set up by Babasaheb are working in various government departments and defence and paramilitary forces. They have been able to pull their families out of the clutches of poverty and are examples for others to follow.

Sunita Kanna is one of them. Her father is no more and her mother single-handedly brought up five children working as a farm labourer.  “Often we had to struggle to make ends meet. My mother worked very hard to bring us up,” says Sunita.

Philanthropist and SSM Founder Babasaheb Keshav Narayanrao Deshmukh being felicitated by Former President Shankar Dayal Sharma. Pic: SSM 30STADES
Philanthropist and SSM Founder Babasaheb Keshav Narayanrao Deshmukh being felicitated by Former President Shankar Dayal Sharma. Pic: SSM

Sunita joined the Chhatrapati Shivaji residential school in Sagroli, in class one. There she developed an interest in running and was trained at the school and also under the ‘Sagroli Sunrise Project’. 

The Sunrise Project started in 2005 and provides rigorous training to students, enabling them to participate in state, national and international athletic events and grab career opportunities through sports quota.

“Because of the school and the training, I participated in many marathons at the state and national levels,” says Sunita. 

Also Read: Gyanada: where children from Mumbai’s slums code, compute and create apps

Based on her athletic achievements, she got a job in the Maharashtra Forest Department in 2013. “Now, I am working as a forest guard. Areas are divided for different people. I am earning Rs32,000 a month, which is a huge achievement for us,” she says.

Sunita Kanna practising during her school days. She is now a forest guard in the Maharashtra Forest Department. Pic: SSM/Sunrise Sagroli Project 30stades
Sunita Kanna practising during her school days. She is now a forest guard in the Maharashtra Forest Department. Pic: SSM/Sunrise Sagroli Project

“Without the school and support of my teachers, I would not be where I am today. My life would have ended up just like my mother’s,” she adds

An opportunity for the underprivileged

Like Sunita, there are about 800 students, both girls and boys, from across Maharashtra who have found jobs and a better life thanks to SSM School.

Over 60 percent of the students are girls from underprivileged families.

The students have won medals and trophies in various sports events. This has given them the opportunity to join government jobs, ensuring a decent salary and a brighter life for their future generations.

Babasaheb himself was a class 10 pass out but his daughter could not study beyond class 4 due to the non-availability of schools nearby. 

Babasaheb was inspired by the works of social reformers Mahatma Jyotirao Govindrao Phule, Maharshi Karve and Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil for girls’ education and decided to contribute towards the cause.

Also Read: Listening, teaching & inspiring: How Chennai’s TQI is mentoring students in 30 districts

Education at SSM includes sports, tech training and other extracurricular activities. Pic: SSM 30STADES
Education at SSM includes sports, tech training and other extracurricular activities. Pic: SSM

“To make education accessible, he opened the residential school for girls and boys from the marginalised communities,” says Rohit Deshmukh, director of SSM and grandson of Babasaheb, who passed away in August 2004.

“Since my grandfather was a well-known landlord with about 1,000 acres of land, it wasn’t too difficult to convince parents to send their sons to school. However, they were concerned about sending their daughters to residential school. Their apprehensions were soon put to rest when they saw their girls receiving a good education,” says Rohit.

The school was started in about 100 acres donated by the founder. It is now spread over 200 acres with a residential capacity of 4,000 students.

Explaining why the residential school was needed, Rohit says, “It is because when children are under discipline and looked after well, they have a higher chance of better growth in education and other activities. At home, they don’t have that environment and spirit, especially among the weaker socio-economic sections of society.” 

Also Read: Abha Kunj: Zero-cost education gives a better future to Indore’s underprivileged kids

The school provides education to students from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Pic: SSM 30STADES
The school provides education to students from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Pic: SSM

Some of the students are orphans while others belong to tribal families or where parents are working as labourers.

The sports push

Rohit says from the early days, the students are not only provided quality education but are also trained in computer skills, technology experiments, sports and other activities for their overall development. “It also helps a child to figure out the areas of interest and hone the skills so that they can opt for a career accordingly,” he adds.

To enrol students in the Sagroli Sunrise Project, the school has rigorous testing criteria. They conduct a Physical Fitness Test Battery (PFTB) at the time of selection. Vertical Jump (3 minutes rest), One Minute Sit-Ups (5 minutes rest), Maximum Push-Ups (10 minutes rest), 300-Meter Run (15 minutes rest) and 1.5 Mile Run/Walk.

Also Read: Anjani Gupta: The gritty mom from UP’s Sultanpur who defied odds to become an athlete

Sports Head Nankishor Jadhav with a student. Over 60% of the students are girls. Pic: SSM

Nandkishor Jadhav, Sports Head of SSM says, “After selection, we arrange a one-month test camp. Here the students undergo more physical fitness activities and only the toughest ones are selected for the project.”

He says the test is rigorous because as a sportsperson, the students have to be ready to face many challenges. “Through the testing process, we analyse the students’ interest, motivation and capabilities so that during training they don’t face motivational or other challenges,” says Jadhav.

Apart from intensive training, the students also get a protein-rich and nutritious diet. The school provides fruits, dry fruits, juices, eggs, milk, and soya milk to ensure complete nutrition for the athletes.

Also Read: Devendra Jhajharia: The boy who lost an arm but won two Paralympic gold medals

“A nutritious diet is very important for the physical and mental growth of sportspersons. That is why we make a customized diet plan for each student for optimum growth,” says Jadhav.

On the training schedule, he says that students have morning practice from 6 to 7:30 am and then attend school from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Evening practice is from 5 pm to 7 pm is followed by a study period and then dinner.

Students undergo rigorous training which prepares them well for life ahead. Pic: SSM/Sagroli Sunrise Project

The students have participated in various marathons including Mumbai Marathon, Bangalore Marathon, Pune Marathon, Thane Marathon, apart from school and university level games.

How sports are changing lives for the better

Ramkishan Salunke, another student from the school, recalls he was enrolled in the Sunrise Project the year it was started (in 2005) because he was a good runner from childhood. He participated in all the marathons and won many medals and trophies.

Thanks to his athletic prowess, he got selected in the Army in 2011.

Also Read: Kashmir’s first woman footballer defies odds to follow her dream

“My parents work as farm labourers. They could not earn to even support my education. However, I was provided free education and also trained in sports without any charges,” he says.

Now, I have a successful career and stable income,” says Pune-based Ramkishan.

Dudhe Bharti is a constable in Mumbai police. She credits her career to the disciplined life in the SSM School.

“We would wake up early in the morning and reach the ground by 6 am to start training. Then we had protein-rich meals. The rigorous training and healthy diet helped us achieve much success in life. Even now I participate in various marathons. I will never give up sports. I am thankful to the school,” she says.

A good education has also had other positive outcomes.

Rohit says because of the school, child marriages of girls have been reduced to almost zero in the Nanded district.

“The school is providing almost free education, especially for girls. This has reduced the chances of child marriage. Parents marry their girls young because of poverty. But now when people see them getting educated and leading an independent life, they are avoiding child marriages,” says Rohit. 

He says if the organization comes to know of any child marriage taking place, they try to stop it.

Also Read: Bharti Foundation provides zero-cost education to over 40,000 underprivileged kids

Opportunities at SSM have reduced instances of girl child marriages to almost zero in Nanded. Pic: SSM 30STADES
Opportunities at SSM have reduced instances of girl child marriages to almost zero in Nanded. Pic: SSM

Initially, expenses for food, clothes and salary of teachers and other staff, were managed through donations. “Several people would donate money to run the school. The school teams would approach farmers and request them to donate some grains to help us with the food,” says Rohit.

But later the school became a government-aided institution and the salary of teachers is given by the government. The school, however, raises funds through crowdfunding platforms and donations for food, clothes and other expenses, says Rohit.

The SSM charges Rs35,000 from one student for a year for the training and food and stay. “However, if students are very good at sports but unable to pay the fee then we also sponsor them,” Rohit adds. 

(Bilal Khan is a Mumbai-based independent journalist. He covers grassroot issues, LGBTQ community and loves to write positive and inspiring stories.)

Also Read: From ‘rat eaters’ to lawyers & engineers, how Bihar’s SSK School is helping Musahar community rise above poverty & stigma

Look up our YouTube Channel

Support 30 Stades


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.