In order to empower some of Gujarat’s most disempowered children, Navsajan has established three primary boarding schools (grades 6 to 8) in rural Gujarat: Katariya (Surendranagar district), Rayka (Ahmedabad district), and Sami (Patan district). The schools serve students, and employ teachers from the local community, trained by Navsarjan. Each school uses Ecosan systems for its water and toilet needs.
The areas around the Katariya, Rayka and Sami schools are rife with discrimination. The Navsarjan schools give Dalit children a shot at a real education that they otherwise would not have. About half of the students who come to the primary schools in 5th standard cannot properly read or write — even after five years of government schooling. The gap presents a challenge to the teachers (as there is a large difference in educational level within one class). But within a few months nearly all students can read and write, and they catch up quickly.
The core of the schools’ identity is equality, both in terms of caste and gender. Unity is emphasized instead of division, and there is no activity that boys do that girls are not also encouraged to do. In addition to emphasizing Dalit unity and total gender equality, the schools provide quality education to children who would otherwise either be enrolled in poor-quality government schools, or have dropped out. Many of the students come from schools in which they experienced discrimination for being Dalits.