Rajasthan News

Hockey love changes a village in Rajasthan

by RajasthanDirect
Nov 01, 2013

Call it a first english school in Garh Himmat Singh or Andrea Thumshirn love for hockey, all efforts are become fruitful while watching Garh Himmat Singh village school with hockey sticks in the hands of students. Andrea Thumshirn’s school makes it possible for Rajasthan’s Garh Himmat Singh village to provide education with sports.

An ordinary village in Rajasthan’s Dausa district, now become famous Garh Himmat Singh sports village. Now it is not difficult to locate what locals call “gori ka school” [white woman’s school]. The white building is visible from afar as the metalled road meanders into the village. It is not a regular school in more ways than one. For one, it is run by a German woman.

There is no board outside, just a cloth banner announcing the name — Action Sports International School. When I enter the school, the woman in question is busy distributing pencils to kindergarten children as they call out, “Andrea! Andrea!”Andrea Thumshirn Hockey Rajasthan

In the classroom facing the entrance, children mob her when she emerges from the cubbyhole that is her office.

Andrea Thumshirn, 36, is not new to Garh Himmat Singh. She first came to India in 1998 and “fell in love with the people here”. It was during one of her trips that her Jaipur-based business partner took her to Garh Himmat Singh, his ancestral village, where his family lives in a part of the garh (fort); the rest is in ruins.

Thumshirn, who has been playing hockey since she was 6 and has been a first league player in Germany, started Hockey Village India, a project to train local children in hockey, in July 2010.

An under-14 village boys’ team was formed, followed by a girls’ team. Thumshirn took them to Jaipur the month after that to play a match with the Delhi Public School team. They played many more matches in Jaipur and elsewhere.

Jaipur is only 125 kilometres from Garh Himmat Singh, but it has been a huge leap in time — five of Thumshirn’s girls have now made it to the state team and played the under-16 national competition under the Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA), a central government-sponsored scheme introduced in 2008-2009 for the development of sports in rural areas.

The children went to different schools in and around the village to play hockey. It was difficult to convince principals to exempt them from school when they went to play matches. Thumshirn didn’t want their parents to pull them out of hockey fearing they would miss out on school, so she decided to set up a school herself, where all her hockey children would study together.

Also, she thought, they needed to learn English — otherwise when they would grow up and play professional hockey, they wouldn’t understand what their foreign coaches were telling them; their brains needed to be open to the world.

A dilapidated building was earmarked for the school, and Thumshirn, along with six volunteers from Germany, began constructing the walls, which were in ruins, and seven classrooms on the first floor, in November 2012.

Even the women, Mia ScAndrea Thumshirn School in Rajasthanhmitz, 19, Nina Gaupties, 24, Friederike Jessen, 20 and Maximilian Weis, 22, carried stones and mortar on their heads during the construction.

Action Sports International School was opened on July 1 this year. Principal of the elite Maharani Gayatri Devi (MGD) Girls’ School of Jaipur, Suniti Sharma, was the chief guest at the opening ceremony. In fact, MGD has agreed to assist the school in terms of curriculum planning, study material and teachers’ training. MGD even donated furniture to the school — 55 wooden benches and 80 plastic chairs — for the primary section.

Thumshirn’s association with MGD began about two years ago when she brought the village hockey team to play a friendly match with MGD girls.

“They would come here to spend a day with us, play hockey with our school team, and also do some art and craft activities,” Sharma recalls. “In the beginning of this year, Thumshirn told me about this school that she was planning and asked me if we could assist her in setting it up since she had no experience. We agreed. We have been able to give her some study material, and have agreed to train their teachers in our school.”

Garh Himmat Singh already had four government schools and an equal number of private schools for a population of more than 5,000 people. Thumshirn knew it wouldn’t be easy to attract students from existing schools. “Six months before we opened the school, we went from door to door with the admission forms, explaining how our school will be different from all others,” says the hockey enthusiast. After all, it was going to be the first English-medium school in the vicinity.

Action Sports International School started with 60 students; today, the strength is 130.

And different it has been so far. Chhavi Awasthi, a student of grade four, says, “Yahan padhai achchi hoti hai, pyar se samjhate hain [Studying here is good. They teach with love].” She quit Sonu Adarsh Vidya Mandir to join this school.

Varsha Sharma, the English teacher, agrees: “We have a different approach here; Andrea [Thumshirn] is totally against corporal punishment, which is the quotidian approach in other schools.” The 25-year-old science graduate, whose husband Pradeep is also a teacher in a school six kilometres from Garh Himmat Singh, is one of the four teachers for English-medium classes in Thumshirn’s school.

There are five Hindi-medium teachers. Thumshirn and the volunteers also conduct classes. Leonard Thomas, 19, who recently finished school (12th grade), teaches students at the kindergarten level.

“In one year, everybody in the village will know who is doing good work,” says a confident Thumshirn, “and we will have more children from other schools.” Thomas says Thumshirn distributes pencils to them everyday and they don’t have one when they come to school the next day. “Yes,” Thumshirn laughs, “I don’t know how many pencils I have distributed to them already.”

As part of the arrangement with MGD, two teachers from this school went to Jaipur in August for a day to observe the MGD teachers at work. In September, senior girls from MGD came to Garh Himmat Singh to teach primary classes. “It’s an ongoing relationship,” Sharma says, “and we are still exploring more ways to help the village children. We also want to strengthen the community-service element for our girls.”

The annual fee structure is Rs6,000 (Dh357) for kindergarten to grade five, Rs3,000 for grade six to eight, and Rs4,000 for grades nine and ten. But nearly half of the students have sponsors. “For the others, a lot of corporates are ready; we just have to close the deal,” Thumshirn says.

Hong Kong-based Action Sports Foundation funded the construction of the school. “They came to know about us via Facebook. Friends and family have supported me in this endeavour, and have sponsored children. Only 15 of our children are sponsored by Indians,” Thumshirn rues. But the good thing is, more friends, hockey lovers and businesses are learning about Hockey Village India and are ready to support it.

When Thumshirn shared her dream with her family in Germany, they were sceptical. “They wondered how I could do it alone. But I have done it. The hardest part is already over,” she sighs in relief.

Garh Himmat Singh is a quintessential, sleepy Rajasthani village — there is no doctor, water comes for a few hours only and electricity is through generators. She had to put together a basic living facility for herself and for the German volunteers who visit her regularly. She constructed two rooms in her business partner’s ancestral house, one for herself and one for the volunteers. The stay for them is free, but the family charges them Rs400 a day for vegetarian meals.

The hardest part is over but not without making a sacrifice: Thumshirn’s business in Germany is dead. “I am into this 24X7. The school runs from 7am to 12.30pm, then I am organising funds, planning tournaments, etc. It’s a full-time occupation, and there’s no time for business now.”

src: http://gulfnews.com/about-gulf-news/al-nisr-portfolio/weekend-review/for-the-love-of-hockey-in-rajasthan-1.1249655

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