In the Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district, a government school with over 200 students just three kilometers from the Line of Control (LoC) has seen major improvements, thanks to a local army unit that has stepped forward to help the youngsters.
The endeavor of Mendhar Gunners under the aegis of White Knight Corps has been to bring the school at par with national standards despite the school being on the LoC, and amid the COVID-19 restrictions, Jammu-based Army PRO Lt Col Devender Anand said.
Government High School, Dharana, located in the serene hills of the Mendhar is far away from the hustle and bustle of Poonch city where children can easily absorb knowledge and grow in all aspects of life, he said.
The students from this school generally come from impecunious families whose primary occupation is daily labor, which has wide implications for the students like lack of exposure to the modern outside world, the officer said.
Lt Col Anand said Mendhar Gunners, the local Army unit on regular interaction with the locals, discerned the issue at hand and immediately sprung into action to assist.
"Our school is along the LoC but we are being provided with all those facilities which are available in all city schools, for example, we have a library with all kinds of study material and volleyball courts to play during our games period, which is something we all look forward to," 15-year-old Fathima, a student of class nine, said.
The ambiance of the school is best described as calm, spacious with good amenities and utilities in a visually appealing landscape. The sprawling campus is lush green and welcoming. The process of teaching-learning unfolds with the tweeting of birds with a visual treat of butterflies and peacocks! Students can also take short treks in the orchards around the campus.
The Army officer said Mendhar Gunners carried out beautification of the school by painting the walls with educative paintings and symbols of national pride.
"Students being from the hilly area are sturdy and have a special interest in sports. Army assisted the school with volleyball, Kho-Kho, and Badminton courts along with the necessary sports equipment," he said.
Lt Col Anand said the same was followed by conduct of tournaments of volleyball and Kho-Kho along with friendly matches of badminton as a first exposure to the sport through admired rarely played in this remote part of the country.
He said the Army has helped equip the school with modern facilities which only city schools have.
"The Army through Mendhar Gunners is making all possible efforts to ensure that no barrier comes in the way of the education of these students while expanding horizons in all fields, like by putting up posters in the campus related to human body parts to generate interest in the subject of biology," he said.
Referring to the recent landmark verdict by Supreme Court shattering the glass ceiling wherein girls were allowed to take the NDA examination for admission to the National Defence Academy, the army officer said a motivational lecture to join NDA for girls of the school was organized to guide them to join the best military training academy in the country which evoked great response by the girl students.
Post historic Olympic Gold medal victory by Subedar Neeraj Chopra in Javelin, the students showed exuberance in picking up sports to represent both state and the nation, he said.
Furthering this aim of motivating youth to take up sports as a profession and to inculcate the value of sportsmanship, Lt Col Anand said Mendhar Gunners conducted various sports competitions for Kho-Kho, Badminton, and Volleyball.
Students with the clamor for soft skills were engaged with drawing and painting, dance, and public speaking events, he said, adding the students standing out with their performance were rightfully rewarded to motivate them to achieve greater goals.
The events organized were based on the theme of national integration to groom the youngsters into patriotic citizens of the great nation, he said.
He said the tree plantation drive was also organized to make the young students realize the importance of preserving the environment.
"The area is remote is surrounded by dense forests. The students were therefore made to feel proud of the biodiversity of their surroundings and to take a resolve to protect the same," he said.
He said the Army also organized a medical and COVID-19 vaccination camp to provide basic medical facilities and free Covid vaccination to the local populace.
The officer said the Army, maintaining its ethos and tradition, reached all out to the far-flung area to provide all possible assistance to the people.