Free Open School in Kanpur

Uddeshya Sachan’s Gurukulam is a Khushiyon Wala school that has helped 400 children learn life lessons along with music, maths and more.

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Growing up in Kanpur, Uddeshya Sachan watches his father, a tailor, fret over his passbook as the end of the month approaches, calculating whether they have made enough money to pay his son’s school fees.

When he was in Class 6, he ran out of money, and had to take him out of school.

“This incident changed me,” says Odisha (31). India’s best. “My studies had to stop and I could never forget that.”

Years later in 2019 he started a unique initiative called Gurukulam – Khushiun Wala Madrasa (School of Happiness). True to its name, this school is a place where children learn life lessons.

“I wanted to do my part for the world.”

After the Sixth Degree Incident, Odyssia’s life took a brighter turn when his father’s business picked up. He was accepted back into a different school where he continued his education.

He did not stop at school, but went to college, where he graduated in Philosophy. He says his middle-class family was cheerful.

“They wanted me to have a well-paying job and stability, but I always felt insecure. I didn’t think I had the skills to work and I also didn’t want to join the crowd running after things in life. I saw the world as a very unhappy place,” he says. , adding that this way of thinking formed his idea to start Gurukulam.

A day at Gurukulam includes music, mathematics, documentaries and more
A day at Gurukulam includes music, mathematics, documentaries and more. Image credits: Uddeshya

“Kids are usually only taught how to succeed. But I also wanted to teach them how to enjoy life,” says Odicia.

So in 2019, with a class of five kids from a nearby slum and a whiteboard, he started teaching in a rented room. Today, the modest number has grown to 150 kids, who say they love going to school.

While at first glance the school may look like an ordinary school with a board and students, a closer look will tell you that it is a completely different world.

At Gurukulam School, the modus operandi is simple – there are no concepts of theft.

“Children need tricks for life in the world,” says Uddeshya. We teach them these things at school and also introduce them to different books. Older children share what they have learned in their lives with the younger ones, and one of the topics of the class was how to overcome a breakup! ”

The school has opened its doors to 400 children so far, says Uddeshya, who is joined by three teachers and several older children, who after completing their time at Gurukulam volunteer at the school to share ideas on various subjects like science, math and music.

Uddeshya Sachan with the children of his school in Gurukulam, Khushiyon Wala School
Uddeshya Sachan with the school children, Image Credits: Uddeshya

Yoga, Music, Math and more

The regular school day at Gurukulam begins with a yoga session at five in the morning, attended by the older children. An hour of meditation follows, after which they go home and come back at 8 am when the younger children join them.

The curriculum is designed according to the age group being taught. They learn through movies, theatre, news, science videos, documentaries, etc. We even have discussions on various topics. It’s a very family environment,” Uddeshya shares. Students come home at 2pm and come back at 4pm when learning continues; the day ends at 5pm.

Radhika, one of the students, says she likes the learning environment the most. “We learn a lot without being forced to do so.”

Another child Shiva says that the place looks like a home. “I learned to play hemorrhoidal; (flute) here and enjoy making my own tunes. There is always something new to learn or do here.

Don’t children miss regular school in the process?

Most of these children do not go to school at all because they are from their country Bastiens (poor neighborhood). “Some of them are orphans and Gurukulam is where they find friends,” says Uddeshya, adding that if a child who goes to the regular school wants to join him, he is welcome after school dates.

While most children in Gurukulam are from the nearby slums, children who attend regular school are welcome
While most children in Gurukulam are from the nearby slums, even children who go to mainstream school are welcome. Image credits: Uddeshya

What started as a one-room initiative now contains eight free rooms and is an edtech platform that has taken an interest in Uddeshya’s work and funded the project.

Around the ‘campus’ one will find musical instruments such as organ and flute, and a couple of televisions – mediums through which lessons are given.

However, although there was an inspiring initiative, Uddeshya says this has been difficult to pin down.

“I’m from a middle-class family, and I never want to take a risk. They want their child to succeed before trying to help anyone else. So convincing them was a mission. To add to that, we depend on donations and people aren’t always very willing to contribute.”

Uddeshya with one of the children studying in Gurukulam
Uddeshya with one of the children studying at Gurukulam, Image Credits: Uddeshya

But, he adds, these problems never clouded his spirit. He continues to spread the promise he made to himself all those years ago, despite all the hardships.

As Uddeshya turns off his alarm at 5am every morning, ready for another day at school, he calls it the best feeling in the world.

“One day, the name of Gurukulam will spread throughout the world as a school that teaches people lessons for life. I was excluded from school, and so, I have created a school for anyone and everyone.”

Edited by Pranita Bhatt


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