In the rural setting of Nanakmatta village in Uttarakhand, Kamlesh Atwal has pioneered a distinctive educational approach through the Nanakmatta Public School (NPS), where students actively lead the learning process and contribute to curriculum planning. Kamlesh, the founder of NPS, envisioned creating a nurturing environment that fosters collaboration between students and teachers, aiming for a more comprehensive and holistic education.
Established in 2012 while Kamlesh was still pursuing his PhD at Jawaharlal Nehru University, NPS was conceived to fill a gap in providing village children with essential life skills and awareness about education and career choices. After completing his PhD in 2015, Kamlesh dedicated himself to the school in Nanakmatta, focusing on his dream of being a teacher and reshaping the school’s educational approach.
One of the remarkable aspects of NPS is its ‘student-led’ environment, where learners actively participate in educational and community initiatives. Over 20 community centers have been set up by NPS students in different areas of Nanakmatta, offering learning spaces for those who cannot afford formal education. Students, mainly from Classes 9 to 12, organize book and science fairs, employing diverse activities such as games, music, films, and books to engage with their peers.
Documentary Filmmaking and Community Engagement:
NPS encourages students to explore beyond the classroom through documentary filmmaking. Students spend time with different communities, producing documentaries that provide insights into the lives and challenges of these communities. The school collaborates with the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) to teach students reporting, data analysis, and ground research, fostering a deeper connection between academic concepts and real-world stories.
The students actively contribute to a variety of initiatives, including running a community library, creating a film club, and publishing ‘The Explorer,’ a magazine curated by students. The magazine encompasses student ideas, written work, cartoons, and more. The school’s unique approach includes wall magazines created by students, showcasing their writings, drawings, and poems.
Impact on Student Confidence:
NPS has successfully nurtured positive leadership qualities in approximately 50 students through various responsibilities. The school’s emphasis on daily meetings, planning for community centers, and discussing challenges and learnings from these responsibilities has significantly impacted students’ confidence and ability to express themselves.
Beyond Traditional Learning:
The school’s curriculum goes beyond traditional methodologies, encouraging students to contextualize learning in their local surroundings. By documenting stories of the people around them, focusing on traditional art, crafts, social issues, and customs, NPS aims to make learning less abstract and more connected to the students’ lived experiences.
Collaboration and Mentorship:
Kamlesh believes in the importance of collaboration and exposure to diverse perspectives. The school collaborates with various organizations and individuals, including Mahesh Chandra Punetha, Sanjay Joshi, and Ashutosh Upadhyay, who provide mentorship and insights in areas such as education, language, grammar, writing, cinema, and science.
Empowering Students for a Better Future:
Nanakmatta Public School stands as a testament to an alternative learning model that empowers students, fosters confidence, and connects them with their communities. Kamlesh Atwal not only teaches but learns alongside his students, embodying an openness to new opportunities and a commitment to understanding the unique learning needs of each student.
Several students from NPS have secured admissions to esteemed universities, reflecting the success of this unconventional and student-centric approach. Kamlesh envisions a future where NPS students, while excelling in their individual paths, continue to contribute positively to marginalized communities and extend help to those in need.