The Education Department, Government of Sikkim, today launched the first phase of its Remote School Transformation Project in Lingzya JHS, Tingvong SS and Namprik JHS, three network shadow villages of the Upper Dzongu area of North District. The Remote School Transformation Project is the result of an MoU between the Education Deptt and 17000 ft Foundation, a Nonprofit organization with a mission to transform education in remote, high altitude frontier villages of the Indian Himalayan Region. The project aims to upgrade Govt. Schools in physically remote & network shadow regions of Sikkim with child-friendly school infrastructure, improved learning resources and capacity building of teachers to increase enrollment and enhance learning levels of children.
The project was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Education Minister Shri Kunga Nima Lepcha in a first of its kind launch in the remote village of Lingzya on December 17, 2021, along with the Education Dept. headed by Secretary Shri Anil Raj Rai State Project Director Samagra Shiksha and Director Elementary Education Shri Bhim Thatal, accompanied by Director Secondary Education Smt. Hondala Gyaltsen, Chief Education Officer (East) Smt. Tseringkee Chingapa, Joint Director Samagra Shiksha Sri AD Chhetri and other Education Officials from North District. Shri Pintso Namgyal Lepcha, MLA, Dzongu Constituency was the Guest of Honour for the event, along with Dr. (Vet. Lt. Gen) Rajan S Grewal, Vice Chancellor, Sikkim Manipal University and sponsors for the project in the three schools. The event was also attended by Shri. Tenzing T. Kaleon, District Collector North Sikkim, along with other officials from SMU & SMIT, Panchayat members and parents.
As a part of the project sponsored by The Manipal Foundation and implemented by 17000 ft Foundation, each of the three schools was provided with outdoor playground equipment consisting of slides, swings, see-saws etc. for children, a brightly coloured and decorated the library with age-appropriate books and a highly specialized Solar Powered Offline Digital Learning Solution, called the DigiLab, with a Solar Panel, Battery, 30 Tablets, a mini Server, desks and chairs, flooring and paint for the DigiLab Room. The DigiLab Solution provides engaging and interactive content for the children even in-network shadow areas to learn at their level, while also allowing for remote monitoring and tracking through the presence of a specially built last mile connectivity App.
The dignitaries toured the school premises and appreciated the combined efforts of each of the school officials and in particular, the communities, who came together to help install the equipment and prepare their school for the new infrastructure.
Shri Bhim Thatal, SPD Samagra Shiksha and Director Elementary Education mentioned that there are many organisations who have been offering several kinds of support but Education Department has been careful amply in collaborating with those who are genuinely concerned. 17000 ft Foundation has been a promising organisation and the partnership of the Department with them has helped in reaching out to the farthest places like Upper Dzongu. He also informed that the Department is being supported by the organisation in many more such schools in Sikkim. Soon, about 100 schools in such net shadow and far-off places will be supported through the MoU.
Shri Anil Raj Rai, Secretary, spoke about the unique opportunity that has come knocking on the doors of the state through 17000 ft Foundation and spoke enthusiastically to the students about his own success despite coming from a humble background like them and encouraged them to aim high, learn well and grab this opportunity presented to them. He encouraged the teachers and parents to utilize their new resources to the fullest and pushed them to aim to make their schools the best in the region and the state.
The Hon’ble Minister in his speech emphasized on the uniqueness of 17000ft foundation and their intervention, how their idea behind choosing, focusing and prioritizing the most remote schools in the state is going to benefit the education system as a whole. He highlighted on how the DigiLab would address the problems of inconsistent electricity and connectivity in these schools, and remove the barriers towards learning. He also spoke about the importance of the new infrastructure of playgrounds and hoped that it would address the problem of low enrolment in these remote villages. He offered his sincere and heartfelt gratitude towards 17000 ft Foundation for an initiative like this and said that now he is motivated and energized to see other remote areas of the state also getting this opportunity.
Speaking at the event, the Vice-Chancellor SMU expressed his gratitude for 17000 ft Foundation and the Department of Education for a heartwarming event and the usefulness of such an initiative in the remote areas of Sikkim. He spoke about collaborating more towards the development of these remote villages in the state and reiterated the commitment of SMU and SMIT institutes in conducting more Health Camps and conducting Technical Education in these areas.
The launch was conducted at all three schools by 17000 ft Foundation in collaboration with SMU, with senior Board Members of the Foundation present. Ms. Sujata Sahu, Founder 17000 ft Foundation, who spoke at the event, reiterated the commitment of her organization towards upgrading schools and improving learning in remote and inaccessible Govt. schools of the State and providing full support to the Govt. and the schools in the monitoring and tracking the outcomes of the projects through their local team based in Gangtok. She further mentioned that training and capacity building of teachers and Education Officials will also be conducted in the near future to ensure seamless implementation and maximum usage of the facilities.
The projects implemented in each of the schools, was a result of an extensive collaboration between the Education Dept., Panchayat, SMCs and the 17000 ft Foundation Team who worked hard to ensure that the new infrastructure and resources are made available to the children