Toby Smith

Community Science Outreach

Raj Kirshan is principal at the newly renovated Shiva Senior Secondary school. It’s freshly painted walls and inclusive fee structure are testament to the desire of the rural sector to match pace and catch up with the development of urban areas. It attracts over 1200 pupils from over 25 different villages in a radius of about 50 miles. Raj is optimistic about the rising importance and options for the education of girls from rural families.

“Parents are becoming more understanding and supportive of a girl’s role and her potential for education and a career. Despite the young girls, still having substantial responsibilities and evening chores in the household –  90% are achieving 90% marks in examinations – bettering the score statistics of the boys here!”

Gita gives a punchy, exciting and passionate talk to an assembly hall – speaking volumes in content and confidence to the tightly packed rows of 13-16 year olds in colourful branded shirts.  Our next stop, is a more modest Dharamshala community school with open classrooms among the ancient courtyards of a trading inn.

Addressing the class in Hindi, under the shade of a large Banyan tree, I can sense the infectious ambition Gita shares with the students and  what must be a refreshing insight into opportunities that lie beyond the algebra and theory chalked on the faded walls.

Our final stop is a state funded higher secondary school for girls; The ‘Rajakiya Kanya Vidyalaya’ is well equipped, disciplined and gaily decorated with hand-painted murals of accurate science diagrams by local science teacher Satya pal Singh. Gita’s talks are clearly spoken from the heart and here they reflect her internal passion for a subject matter and a genuine belief that plant science can offer real solutions to these agricultural communities.  The messages are naturally infectious and packed with visions of the careers and world beyond the stifling classrooms.