If you think that schools are for learning through books and through rote, visit the government primary school in the village of Keithot, district Firozabad of Uttar Pradesh.
The school campus is a lush green with a variety of plants, thanks to the initiative of school's headmaster Muhammad Shahid who has involved students in planting 300 varieties of plants. The students here not only learn from books but also have hands-on and practical knowledge of agriculture, and environment.
Muhammad Shahid not only involved the students in planting trees over an area of 5,500 square feet on the school campus, but also made them to look after these. The school garden has fruits, flowers and vegetables of at least 300 varieties.
Interestingly, the food grown in school is used for the midday meal for students of the school.
Little gree warriors: students posing with a plant
Mohammad Shahid is so attached to his mission that he travels 14 km from his home to school even on Sundays and holidays.
Childen can identify Roses, Marigolds and others planted and taken care of by each one of them. They call each plant by the name of the student who has planted it.
Each child has been given the responsibility of individual plants and the students competitively take care of their plants. This helps the saplings to survive and grow.
The garden attracts birds and bees alike. As Shiva, a class 5 student, said, "Recently, a peacock laid six eggs. "People from nearby villages come to enrol their children in schools," said Gopal Singh, a resident of the village.
So far, 96 children of the village are studying in the school. Representatives from private schools also visit the school to see the experiment of the headmaster.
Students with the yield from school garden
Mohammad Shahid was posted to the school in 2011. "Initially, I started planting trees in the school as an amateur. Later, my campaign was supported by the village headman and the villagers. The students became the biggest support," he said. "They have worked hard to grow plants and it is a great learning process for them and they enjoy it.”
More than a decade of hard work and use of organic fertilizers and vermicompost have yielded results. Today, medicinal plants are in the garden, including china berry, kejilia, sudarshan, arjuna, drumstick, basil and neem. A variety of fruits and vegetables such as mangoes, lemons, bananas, mulberries, bottle gourds, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, garlic and onions are grown. Sunflowers, roses, jasmine and a variety of seasonal flowers fill the campus.