Life of Shailesh Srivastava was running as usual until he came to know about Arvind Kejriwal and his team during the second phase of Anti-Corruption Movement. At that time, he was working in Bangalore as a software engineer. Media coverage and talks among people made him curious about the movement and he started exploring all the profiles associated with the movement. Once his dream of going to IIT for higher education made him interested in Arvind Kejriwal’s profile. He became curious to know that how is it possible for an IIT graduate to give up his well paying job when every kid in India wants to achieve a similar life. The more he explored about Arvind, more he became fascinated with his work. He voluntarily supported the movement and decided to participate actively after AAP was born in 2013.

Election Campaigns: He made trips to Delhi in order to campaign for 2013 Delhi assembly elections, campaigned in Bangalore for 2014 parliamentary elections and participated in calling campaigns during 2015 Delhi assembly elections. While volunteering for AAP, Shailesh was not very confident in informing his friends and family about his volunteering engagement. He often lied to them. This was mainly because people always considered politics as a bad affair.  Active or passive participation in politics has never had a positive reputation in India. He closely followed Delhi govt and AAP leaders via social media and spend hours reading about them. Shailesh had two options. 1) Continue reading about done by AAP and convince some of the friends about it’s achievements. 2) Help Arvind and Manish in completing our dreams. Shailesh chose 2nd option. He couldn’t afford to leave his job like many other volunteers and moved to Delhi by joining a company at a lower salary.

Volunteering: Unexperienced in politics and activism, Shailesh decided to work in the area of education and connected with Atishi. He was introduced to other volunteers who to get engaged with School Management Committee (SMC). Since June 2016, Shailesh is working with SMC and appointed as a Hub Manager of the central team led by Atishi. After working for almost 3 years, Shailesh finds volunteer work extremely satisfying. It makes him feel that he is contributing to the society and not just working for himself. He is proud to be an AAP volunteer, it gives him a purpose.

Shailesh Srivsatava with Manish Sisodia, Atishi and other volunteers working with SMCs

SMC Activation: SMC, a decision making body in schools was introduced by the Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2009. Each school in India has one SMC. It consists of a school principal, public representatives from local area and parent members elected by voting. In most schools, SMCs are either not formed or exist only on paper. In Delhi too, SMCs existed on papers until a day in 2015 when Atishi was asked to sign a file related to SMC elections. She came to know about SMCs after she read the file. Atishi decided to activate them according to the RTE Act. Parent members as part of SMCs are one of the real stakeholders in our democracy. Since that day in 2015, SMCs are not only actively participating in making decisions in schools but they have also successfully organized many events involving students and other community members.

Distribution of community members in School Management Committees

When first SMC elections were conducted in Sept 2015, people were not so aware about them. So the team had to start by educating parent members and others about SMCs. There are a total of 16 members in each SMC: One school principal (chair of SMC), one school teacher (convener of SMC), one social worker from local area, one public representative as MLA and 12 parent members who are elected by other parent members. Almost 70% of students in government schools are from low income families whose parents work as daily labourers, factory workers, sellers, housekeepers etc. Encouraging them to contest for SMC positions was very challenging. These parents had never been a part of the school system and lacked managerial skills. They needed a robust training. This is where AAP volunteers played a critical role. Volunteers trained and educated SMC members. Slowly, a hierarchical volunteer structure was developed:

Vidhan Sabha Coordinator: One coordinator in each vidhan sabha to coordinate with all the SMC members in that vidhan sabha (total 70)

District Coordinator: One district coordinator consisting of 5 vidhan sabhas (total 14)

Hub Manager: Total four hub managers to look after 14 districts. Hub managers are part of the central team led by Atishi.

NGO: “Sajha” is part of the process which provides training and support materials.

Volunteer organization of with Delhi School Management Committees

Central team of volunteers works as think tank. It makes plans about upcoming activities, monitor their execution, provide training on the ground and takes notes from executed work for future improvements.

Training SMC Members: The task which was very challenging in the beginning became possible after the hard work of volunteers. Now people know about SMC and come forward by themselves to run for positions. However, it is often seen that one person in a more powerful position tries to undermine the work of those less fortunate. Similar behaviour was also observed with the SMC members. Many principals stopped SMC members from entering into the school system and some members tried to run school by creating autocratic situations. As a result, central team with the help of Manish Sisodia and Atishi had to step in and took in-charge of contacting the school principals who were violating right to education act. At the same time, central team provided the necessary training to SMC members with the help of SCERT and Sajha.

Organizing Meetings: As most SMC members are daily wagers, many of them had to lose their pay to attend a meeting organized by the SMC. There is no compensation to the SMC members. But after some initial struggles, bosses of daily wagers started to allow their employees to join SMC meetings without payment cuts. At the same time, SMC members also started organizing meetings in a way to minimize financial damage. They organized meetings in parks, public places, community halls, restaurants and other places in accordance with everyone’s convenience. Some of the members are still losing their wages but it is a price that people are willing to pay as societal reform is a slow process.

Thanking SMC Members: AAP government has developed a culture to thank all the SMC members. Members are appreciated during “SMC Samman Samaroh” organized at the vidhan sabha level. They are given a certificate and a shield. The event is attended by all SMC members where they share their experiences. Members also pledge to SMC’s oath. Some of the achievements that will be remembered as part of Delhi education reforms where SMC members played a major role are:

  1. Cleanness Drive: Condition of government schools was very poor after AAP formed a government in Delhi. Most of the areas in school premises were dirty. Govt rented an app and asked SMC members to take a photo of every dirty spot in any corner of the school. The photo was forwarded to the concerned official which was later received by the school principal. Dirty areas were cleaned within a day.
  2. Summer Camp: SMC members took charge of organizing summer camps in Delhi government schools. They went to schools, talked to teachers and principals and convinced them to organize summer camps in their schools.
  3. Reading Mela: SMC members organized reading mela to increase reading capability of students. They did it without any financial support from the govt. Reading mela were organized in parks, colonies, community centres, houses and other open area. More than 1000 reading Melas were organized on Sundays over a period of 3 months.
  4. Admission Drive: Committees consisting of SMC members at different levels were formed. SMC members were trained about admission process and they organized admission drives in their local area. SMC Members also setup helpdesk at school entrances to help in admission process and resolve some issues with their capacity.
  5. Mid-Day Meal: SMC members participated and improved the midday meal served in government schools.
  6. Mega PTM: SMC members went door to door in their areas, talked to parents, explained benefits of Mega PTM and encouraged them to join PTM.
  7. SMC Parents Meeting: SMC members organized meetings with other parents to explain SMC activities, expectations and receive feedback.

SMC Fund: Recently, AAP government has started giving a minimum financial support of Rs 5 lakh to each school. SMCs decide the plan for utilizing this money. They can use the funds for school related works such as construction of libraries, hiring teachers, purchase of furniture, and building new projects which can benefit students. At present, such SMC funds are only provided by Delhi government. Each govt school in India receives some funds known as “Vikas Kalyan Samiti Fund” which are supposed to be spend by SMC at their level but none of the schools have a functioning SMC in rest of the country.

Swaraj: Unfortunately, Mohalla Sabha project was blocked by Central govt and Swaraj Bill could not be implemented. But, Swaraj is being practised by SMCs. Constituency level “SMC Mahasabha” is organized by Central Team in collaboration with Sajha. SMC Mahasabha, moderated by local MLA, invites all the officers from different departments which were engaged with government schools. Members go through written complaints from their schools and seek a progress report from the concerned official. SMC Mahasabha is empowering SMC members and encouraging other members to participate. They find it satisfying that they are contributing towards the betterment of schools. Swaraj model is being practised in SMCs for the past 3 years.  

Shailesh Srivastava (3rd from left) with other Hub Managers

The change might be slow but it is necessary to understand that if we implement it overnight then it won’t be stable as our system has rotten systematically over the years. Its restoration requires well-defined milestones that should be carried out via baby steps. SMC is just one of them. A big salute to selfless volunteers who made this possible. A government can spend millions on a project but until people benefitting from the project do not understand its implied use, project might go to waste. Volunteers like Shailesh are filling the gap and becoming the backbone of a systematic change we all dreamed with AAP.

Watch complete video of AAP Ka Radio call with Shailesh Srivastava