Want To Give Back To Your Alma Mater? Odisha’s Mo School Abhiyan Shows How It Can Be Done
The Mo School programme has brought together 30 lakh alumni and community members across Odisha. Apart from voluntary services, the alumni network has contributed Rs 253 crore towards transformation of the government schools.
Nidhi Jamwal 29 Dec 2023 12:48 PM GMT
Rabi Narayan Sahoo has walked and run across the high-ceiling corridors of Puri Zila School umpteen number of times. He passed out of the school nearly 40 years ago. But with time, his association with his alma mater that was established in 1853, has only grown stronger.
A sculptor by profession, Rabi Narayan Sahoo is a part of the 250-member strong alumni association of the school. The network is supported by the Odisha government which runs a special programme — Mo School (My School in Odia) — to involve alumni members across the state to transform the government schools and improve their educational standards.
Mo School Abhiyan is a platform to encourage inclusion. The alumni and others interested in the betterment of schools participate, contribute to and share their knowledge, experience and life-lessons as well as make voluntary financial contributions that are then matched, twice over, by the state government.
This is part of the larger High School Transformation Programme of the state government that focuses on the 5Ts — transparency, technology, teamwork, time, and transformation — to offer world class education through government schools.
“I visit the school almost every month and cannot help getting nostalgic about my heydays. That time our playground was sandy and there were no gardens in the school. Now, there are paved walkways, there is an e-library and 18 smart classes with the latest technology,” Rabi Narayan Sahoo told Gaon Connection.
It was a decade ago, in 2013, that the alumni network of the Puri Zila School was formalised and its members started participating in school activities.
“The area outside the school’s boundary wall was encroached upon by illegal shops and in the evenings, antisocial elements drank there and created a nuisance. As alumni members we decided to tackle the menace,” said Gadadhar Sahoo, a hotelier by profession, also an alumni of the Puri Zila School and a member of its alumni association.
“We held meetings with the municipal corporation and fenced the school with our own funds. There was stiff resistance from the shopkeepers but we did not give up. Finally, in 2017, all encroachments were removed. The school now has a boundary wall and gardens all around,” said a proud Gadadhar Sahoo, who is in his 50s.
Improving the environment of the school has meant the students can look forward to coming to the school and there is a sense of belonging.
“Our school is better than private schools as we have the best of facilities both academics and extracurricular. I love making science models and the smart classrooms with video facilities help us learn better,” said Dinesh Pradhan, a class 9 student of the school. It has classes from 1 to 10, with each class having five divisions and a total strength of 1,650 students. The Puri Zila School also has a gymnastics hall and its students represent the state at national gymnastic tournaments and win laurels too.
Dr Kumar Arujyoti is an Ayurvedic doctor who passed out of the school in 1998. The school topper is now a member of its alumni association.
Despite his busy schedule of attending to his patients, Arujyoti, who is also a table tennis champion, visits his alma mater six days a week to teach students the indoor game from 4 pm to 5 pm, without charging any fee.
“We alumni members are trying to give back to our school in whichever way possible. For the past one and a half years, I have been training students in table tennis. Earlier children had no such opportunity in the school,” said Arujyoti.
The alumni network is growing as more and more ex-students of government schools in the state are joining this unique initiative.
“Last year, we invited all the ex-teachers of our school for the annual function. The majority of them are above 70-80 years of age, and they were so happy to revisit the school,” said Rabi Narayan Sahoo. “For us, it was nostalgia as we met our teachers who have made us what we are today, ” he added.
Hotelier Gadadhar Sahoo recalled his former teacher, Brajakishore Naik. “When Naik Sir walked in the school corridor, it seemed like a tiger was walking. He had such a towering personality. Even after 20 years of retirement, he remembered the names of each and every of his students and always called them by their first names.”
Naik Sir passed away five years ago, he added with a tinge of sadness.
For the Ayurvedic doctor Arujyoti it was his science teacher who had an impact on him. “Bamancharan Sahoo Sir was our science teacher and also our NCC teacher. Once I stayed up the whole night making a science project and the next day I had to attend a science exhibition. I wore the wrong shoes to the exhibition and he sent me back to change my shoes. I learnt the value of discipline from him,” said Arujyoti.
Puri Zila School is one of the thousands of schools across Odisha that have benefited from Mo School Abhiyan of the state government.
“So far, under the programme, we have covered 8,864 high schools and 44,543 elementary schools. Mo School has helped connect 30 lakh alumni and community members,” said Aswathy S, commissioner-cum-secretary, Department of School and Mass Education, Government of Odisha.
Talking about the financial contribution from the alumni network, she said: “The alumni members have contributed Rs 253 crore, and as per the Mo School plan, the state government has matched twice that amount through its own contribution. Also, another Rs 1,025 crore has come through CSR contribution,” she said.
“School transformation is taking place at a rapid pace in Odisha. A number of parents are shifting their wards from private schools to government schools. By April 2024, all classrooms in government schools — high school, elementary school, undergrad — across the state will be smart classrooms,” promised VK Pandian, Chairperson 5T (Transformational Initiatives), Government of Odisha.
Nidhi Jamwal is Managing Editor of Gaon Connection.