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SNE School - Ladakh, India
The Sacred New Era (SNE) School is one of the projects of SESOL India and provides holistic education to those in need. Founded by Shabir Banday, with the help of his parents, friends and supporters, the school opened in 2001 with 5 pupils aged 2½ & 3 years. The five pupils began school under a Montessori trained teacher and an assistant. The administrator was Shabir's father (G M Banday), who since then has continued to help run the SNE School voluntarily and has provided the school building for no cost. Today, SNE is doing exceptionally well, 164 children are getting the best education and 21 individuals from some of the remotest parts of India are getting their livelihoods as members of SNE School staff. Recently, realising the benefits of SNE School to the region the government has sanctioned a piece of land for building a permanent school in future. We hope to build a school building in the near future, though it will be a challenge to raise funds. SNE, since its inception, has grown bigger and continues to do so. Staff and students represent different faiths and communities and is a good example of community cohesion.
This school is an attempt to address issues of education, culture and environment within the backdrop of modern Ladakh. Based on a vigorous value system, SNE attempts to integrate the various heterogeneous fractions of society, thereby knitting them together with the thread of progressive knowledge. Here, progressive does not mean abandoning the age old culture, but upholding the rich heritage and promoting it along with modern concepts.
It uses a Montessori approach to encourage children from an early age to think for themselves and become aware. It provides an affable and homely atmosphere to students where they can liberally express themselves. This school is different from general Ladakhi Schools and is growing because parents are realizing its beneficial qualities. It offers a unique education and is an example of diverse communities within Ladakh working together. It is the only school and is, in fact, a pioneer in creating awareness among the masses in understanding the broad concept of education.
Predominantly, the traditional idea of education is associated with schools and colleges and attained by only those who actually attend such institutions. The SNE concept of Education firmly believes that education does not mean bookish knowledge alone, nor is it confined to the four walls of the classroom: knowledge can also be gained through our experiences at home, travelling or carrying out everyday tasks in order to survive. This doesn't mean that reading, writing or going to school and college is not imperative for the progression of a society, as it would be an advantage for people in remote villages to be able to communicate and write in other language(s). But it is misleading to call the inhabitants of a village as uneducated as this ignores their knowledge about farming, growing food in sub-zero temperatures, hunting etc. which is an education many others are ignorant about.
"A person who can read and write can be an educated person, but a person who can't read and write, living in a remote village at 30 degrees below zero temperature, without proper heating who is self- sufficient, can also be an educated person". (Shabir Banday)
Pupils at SNE School represent different faiths and ethnic groups and come from villages around Leh, and even further away. Classes begin from pre-nursery (stage 1st), Nursery (stage 2nd), Kindergarten (stage 3rd) and up to grade 10 (A levels). For the first two years, the complete Montessori method is followed, and then books are introduced to complement this. Parents are informed and involved in the development of the school, which in itself is unusual in Ladakh. We envisage several challenges ahead and it is still a long way to go for us to achieve our long-term strategy and the kind of education that we want at the SNE School; but with the support of parents, staff, people of Ladakh in general, dedication of the founder, and also with the help and support of ardent supporters, we will be able to overcome all the challenges as we have done so far. The SESOL UK Travels Limited is yet another initiative by the founder and his supports to help the future financial sustainability of the SNE School & projects to support disadvantaged communities.
Help where it is Most Needed
Our charity initiative is all about putting something back into the communities we visit. There are thousands of children in Ladakh who aspire to get educated, which despite being a fundamental child right is not available to many and many do not have access to quality education. Many go to distant places to seek quality education. Though there are many schools in Ladakh, we believe in quality education, creating awareness among the masses, imparting modern knowledge, but at the same time upholding the rich culture of Ladakh. We attempt to make a better difference to society.
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