"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them." - Henry David Thoreau
That is exactly what a team of IIT graduates did -- built foundations under their dreams. They didn't dream of castles though. They dreamt of an excellent school in a remote part of Bihar to cater to families who could otherwise not have access to such quality education. They laid the foundation for their dream school a few years ago. Rise High Public School has been operational for a year now. Currently it has around 240 students. The school, spread over 3 acres of land in Aurangabad district - 15km from Aurangabad city, Bihar, provides world-class, affordable, English-medium education in the CBSE curriculum.
Vikash (37), Anshuman (36), Rupesh (37) and Ankesh (37) are 1999 graduates of IIT Kharagpur. They hold significant positions in well-known corporations in India. Their story of social entrepreneurship is inspiring because they laid the foundation for their dreams while juggling full-time jobs and families with young kids. We often hear of people renouncing their corporate avatar to realise a social project, but here we have an instance of four young entrepreneurs who balance both alongside their personal life, quite admirably.
Rise High Public School in Aurangabad is the first initiative in their long-term project.
Social entrepreneurship is about using one's skills, talents, network and money to bring about a social change. The four young entrepreneurs, who got to know each other during their days at IIT, used their extensive network and work experience to raise money to build a school in a place where comprehensive education is scare. They drew up a business plan to serve as a roadmap flagged with milestones, just like any business entrepreneur would. They outlined short-term and long-term development plans, detailed sales and marketing strategies and made financial projections. They used their individual and collective credibility to attract investors and evangelists. They banked on their personal experiences and intuition to show them the right way at the right time.
Rise High Public School is instantly different from other schools in its neighbourhood for many reasons, including an educational approach that is holistic in nature. The school has a strong focus on music, arts, physical education and experiential learning that is beyond the CBSE curriculum. This is the school's key differentiator. The initial investment made in infrastructure relating to sports, music and computer education is just one of the many proof points in that regard.
Vikash, Anshuman, Rupesh and Ankesh understand thoroughly the social and geographical space their school fills. The local schools in that region (Aurangabad, Bihar) have typical problems that come with rural education: high teacher-student ratio, small classrooms, limited sports facilities, lack of English education until middle school, rote learning imparted through inexperienced teachers, lack of teaching aids and so on. The result is mostly the same: jaded students lacking comprehension and skills needed for competitive higher studies.
The four founders of Rise High Public School believe that by providing a pleasant, positive and encouraging learning environment every student will look forward to be in school every day and put in his or her personal best to excel. This is one of the key changes the school would bring to a region where education is equated to memorising a prescribed textbook to clear a series of annual exams.
The school's recent achievements in state-wide and district-wide competitions against other schools from the region are testament to its claims.
"Providing top quality education to (India's) rural areas was dear to our hearts. It was a huge challenge to build infrastructure, recruit and assign staff members aligned to our vision and teaching methodology," says Vikash, Founder and Managing Trustee
Another salient feature of Rise High Public School is that the fees are structured to suit the local average income in a region that thrives on agriculture.
Adds Rupesh, Founder, Trustee and Vice President, "In the ups and downs of realising our dream, it is very satisfying to work with kids whose parents can only provide minimal support at home. The difference the school makes to them is immediately evident. Everything seems worth the initial difficulties when we hear the kids say they prefer school days to holidays..."
Long-term plans that the founders have laid out for the school are not limited to infrastructure and finance alone. The four social entrepreneurs aim to bring their dream project up to one of the top 25 schools in the country, by 2030. Implementation plans are laid out to the very last detail. The founders' aim is not to reap profits but to make the school self-financing in a few years - after which the plan is to replicate the same model of education in another rural district in India. Surplus, if any, would always be reinvested back into education. That is their promise.