When she joined the Girls’ Upper Primary School (GUPS) in Alwar’s Shivaji Park in December 2016, Hemlata Sharma, 47, had been teaching for 27 years. This was her first posting as head teacher and never before had she been so appalled by the condition of the school.

Classrooms leaked in the rain, plaster peeled off the wall. The entire building was in a state of disrepair and housed just 100 students from classes 1 to 8.

Sharma took up a challenge to bring the school back to life before the next academic session in July and roped in four other teachers for support.

Pleasing seating areas, space for interaction: The old school now is all bright and cheerful (HT Photo)

Within four months, things changed – the walls were painted in bright colours, the classrooms spruced up and a lawn laid out in front. An underground rainwater recharge tank, an RO plant for drinking water, and new furniture in all classrooms were also added. Leakages were plugged.

Just 15 days after schools opened, enrolment went up to 202. Some admissions were pending clearance for lack of Aadhaar and birth certificates.

Sharma was also determined to do something about Rajasthan’s high school dropout rate. The 2016 Annual Status of Education Report survey of schooling and learning levels in rural India ranks the state among the top three with the highest dropout rates in children aged 11 to 14 (5% among all-India average of 3.5%). To get more children to her school, she turned to her family for donation to start repairs.

A garden has been laid out for the children to play in. (HT Photo)

“I asked my sisters, brother and father for money and collected Rs 40,000 from them. After that I went to my teachers,” said Sharma, who added Rs 11,000 from her savings into the school renovation kitty.

Manju Rani Sharma, who retired on May 31, donated Rs 21,000 as a parting gift to the school. Three other teachers – Sanika Sharma, Sashi Singhal and Kavita Sharma – also donated to take the teachers’ contribution Rs 51,000.

After collecting about Rs 1 lakh, the teachers began work. For changing the infrastructure, Sharma met district Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan officials, who, impressed by her efforts, sanctioned Rs 2 lakh more.

Sanika Sharma, who will retire in June next year, said they approached philanthropists in town for furniture in classrooms and free uniforms for students.

On June 8 this year, the teachers distributed among 170 students a new uniform set and a pair of shoes and socks.

Clean water, waste disposal – the school has now got new, upgraded facilities. (HT Photo)

“It was on that day that I proposed to my colleagues that teachers should wear uniform to school to enforce discipline – and the teachers agreed,” said Sharma.

Now the students wear brown trousers and skirts and light brown shirts, and the teachers wear off-white salwar and dupatta and maroon kurta.

Two teenagers who passed Class 12 recently come in regularly to teach junior school students to make up for shortage of teachers. “Parul and Priyanka, twin daughters of school management committee president Kusum Rohilla, are coming to school since June 22 after two of the five teachers got transferred out,” the head teacher said.

The two girls are in the first year of college.

Recently, Imran Khan from Alwar, who was lauded by PM Narendra Modi at London’s Wembley Stadium in 2015 for creating apps for the benefit of students, got the school four computers and a printer.