Kanji (Leh): In April, Leh district's last village of Kanji in the western Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir received electricity for the first time. It was only last year that a tarred road was built to connect this remotest hamlet to the world. But a school has been operating here since 1960 - giving students wings to dream!
This lone government school is the only hope of 40 families living in the village to provide better lives and professional careers to their children against their traditional farming business.
"I have never been out of this village and farming is the only thing I know. I don't want the same harsh life for my children," Tshering Norbu, a farmer, told this visiting IANS correspondent.
"My only wish is to see them study and this school is our only hope," added Norbu who studied till Class 5 from the school, which once operated from a single room.
For a village that is situated at 3,875 metres above sea level, the harsh realities of life stare right into the face with the arrival of winter.
At the village's "ration house" grain is stocked for six months and kerosene is bought in bulk to sustain everyday requirements.
While this school does offer a balm, the quality of education, as expected, is poor for its 43 students.
This is why an organisation - 17,000 ft Foundation - has mapped all schools in Leh and Kargil district of the Ladakh region and is setting up libraries and playgrounds in 100 schools it works with.
"The students lack basic comprehensive skills. So we firmly believe that a library can contribute a lot in improving their reading and writing skills as most of them struggle in English," NGO co-founder Sandeep Sahu told IANS.
Sahu's team closely works with Village Educational Committees (VECs), whose contribution is pivotal for motivating villagers in sending their children to school, generating funds for schools or arranging accommodation facilities for teachers from different villages.
During a recent trip to the school, Sahu gave the VEC of the village a demo of how a playground it is planning to set up will look like.
The VEC's approval was necessary as it would have speeded up the process of removing unwanted debris and stones from the ground that was dumped by contractors who had later refused to clear them to make space for the playground.
It is the commitment of these VEC's that they are pushing boundaries to ensure better facilities at the school.
This is how Sahu was able to launch a library in 2013, and is now planning to set up a playground before winter sets in.
The playground is funded by the Kentucky-based chicken chain KFC, which has joined hands with 17,000 ft Foundation under its popular #KFCWishBucket challenge to set up three playgrounds and one library in different schools.
Only a faint idea of having a playground in her school premises with swings and slides has made eight-year-old Sonam Palmo happy.
So far, she has only played kabbadi and other games.
"I have seen those things on television," a visibly confused Palmo told IANS when asked about how a playground looks like.
"It would be nice to have one," she added shyly, her rosy cheeks glowing as she blushed.
Added Tshering Dorjee, one of the committee members: "Education is a ticket to get out from this village.
"Our children can become independent, join the army or take private jobs. They can even become tour operators if they understand Hindi and English," Dorjee told IANS.
"At the same time, the overall development of these children is important," he added.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org )