Meet Seema Seth who is leading children to a ‘Nayi Disha’

Nov. 4, 2022, 12:52 p.m.

By: Reshma Jain

After 30 long years of corporate experience, in October 2013, there was a tipping point and Seema Seth decided to take a break. However, a chance conversation with Mahendra, an autowallah, who was genuinely concerned about the welfare of the little children who loitered about the basti, where he lived, led to what has grown into a movement called Nayi Disha.

Mahendra discussed with Seema about his concerns one day while he was dropping her home from another school where Seema volunteered, and just like that, she told him, “Get me 2 rooms on rent and I will start a school for the children in your basti”. He did. Nayi Disha was born on March 19, 2014, with 2 teachers and 35 children,” reminisced Seema.

The children who live in these bastis, belong to families where both parents work either as house maid, drivers, vegetable sellers, etc. and do not think of education as a requirement, and cannot spare time to drop these children to schools outside their immediate living place.

“That was our advantage. We provided them a place to study within close proximity of their homes, with a promise to admit the children to mainstream schools once they were ready. 8 years later, we have been successful in admitting 170 students to mainstream schools like DPS Shiksha Kendra, Amitasha, etc,” added Seema.

Come 2020, they were faced with another problem that prompted them to rethink their strategy. Ravi who was 7 years old, eligible for admission to class 2 was 9 years and in no way able to pass the entrance test. There are so many more like Ravi. They had to find ways to keep them in school because school dropouts defeated their purpose. They found an answer in The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and sought help from the NIOS center at Vidya school and enrolled 10 students for class X. Thereafter, they also affiliated themselves to Saksham Bal Sanstha, which is an Accredited NIOS institute, for enrolling students to classes 3 and 5 in March 2022.

Speaking to Socio Story, Seema said, “Education was not the only thing we wanted to equip our children with. They needed to be educated on child rights and to safeguard themselves against sexual abuses. They needed an all-round development and learned life skills too.”

Nayi Disha developed and implemented a program around child rights and safety called ‘Create Safe spaces’. They conduct regular workshops for students and parents to build awareness around sexual harassment and the need to talk about it. It took 5 months for the first child to articulate her discomfort with some family members and it was an encouraging start. And then they rolled out these workshops to teachers of other schools too.

“In June 2019, we were approached by one student of Pathways School Gurgaon to volunteer at Nayi Disha. That was the start of a movement called the Nayi Disha Youth Division. We currently work with 35 students from schools across NCR, who have supported Nayi Disha in all its projects, be it Bake sales, Teachers Manuals, student activities, facilitating programs around Child Safety, etc,” said Seema.

She further added, “In March 2020, we were approached by a corporation to design an after-school program for middle school students of Govt schools in Mewat. We happily took up the challenge and it took us 2 months to conceptualize and finalize the plan. We identified Analytical Skills and Comprehension Skills as the most critical gaps, among the students surveyed.”

To bridge this gap, a program focusing on Mathematics and English Communication was designed. The classes are facilitator led with self-driven learning tools / portals. The students are encouraged to learn at a pace that suits them while tapping into the facilitator support to enhance learning. The initiative has seen spectacular impact in the form of improved academic results of the students; greater self confidence among students; firmer resolve to dream and achieve big, both for students and parents. However, they continue to face challenges in the form of poor network, lack of devices, etc. Overall, the outcome has been very encouraging and the organisation believes that replicating this program in schools in rural/semi urban regions will be very beneficial.

Nayi Disha is transitioning from a basic primary school, to an institution that will provide students a forum to blossom; to become socially responsible, and economically empowered citizens. “We have introduced NIOS (Open Schooling) classes and are grooming children for class 5 exams in February 2023. Our plans are to add a class every year, to provide education to children upto class 8 and then guide them to enrol for class X and XII. We currently have 175 students and 10 teachers across two locations,” concluded Seema.

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