Marni Bodhgaya: past, present & future

The story behind the setting up of this school is a heartwarming one. The school was founded in 1996, by Satish Ram and Savithri Devi, the parents of the current co-principals - twin brothers Vijay Kumar and Jain Kumar. The school was set up to support local kids who could not afford any schooling and hence spent their time working with their parents in the fields or serving as servants in local households.

The school started in a humble way supporting 10 students the first year. The sons took over in 2002 and by 2008 they had 115 students, with classes from nursery to fifth grade. A group of socially conscious teachers, driven by the passion to teach poor children of their locality, taught in this school at far less than standard salaries. The school facilities include eight wooden shacks that serve as classrooms during the day and as sleeping quarters during the night for the boarding students. All this was located on a property that had no running water and electricity and was the size of a tennis court. Leaking roofs, broken blackboards, a hand operated water pump, a basically equipped open-air kitchen and a small inadequate toilet facility formed the rest of the infrastructure. The school ran on funds from local sponsors, but by early 2009 these funds dried up and the school was about to close down. It was during this period that Elisabeth Ballard who worked as a volunteer teacher at the school, witnessed its potential demise and returned to Paris with this story. Needless to say, the closing down of the school would have resulted in the children returning to a life of manual field labor, destitution and hopelessness.

Since April 2009, we have been supporting the school and funding them to allow them to continue and function as before. During 2010, we decided it was necessary to assemble a committee of member specialists from different backgrounds who could advise us on how to improve the conditions and education standards at the school.

We now have 135 children enrolled at the school, including 12 boarders. Beautiful boys and girls with big smiles, eager to learn, in clean school uniforms turn up daily to start their school day at 6.00 AM. Our volunteers and team Marni, periodically spend many fulfilling weeks amidst this young and inspirational family of teachers and schoolchildren in this oasis of love, peace and compassion.

A critically important decision was made early December 2010, to provide our current fifth grade students (the final grade of elementary school) with a continuation of their schooling to high school. In order to meet the basic requirements of the school’s expansion plans, we are looking at a possible doubling of school students and teachers, requiring additional space for classrooms and other infrastructure.

In the meanwhile we are attending to the following priority improvements:

  1. Installing a running water facility
  2. Connection with electricity grid and placement of a power generator
  3. Re-building and improving classroom and student boarding facilities
  4. Providing teaching aids and school equipment such as, text books, notebooks, school boards, computers, science kits, etc.