For nine years now, Kolkata’s Satarupa Majumder has been running the Swapnopuron Welfare Society (SWS), an English-Medium school in the remote Sundarbans.
It all started when teacher Satarupa Majumder visited Katakhali village in Hingalganj in the remote Sundarbans. Her Toronto based aunt had come home and she had this tradition of making donations every time she visited India and this time the aunt had chosen Katakhali village. What Satarupa saw in the village broke her heart. The children of the village were either playing in mud or rolling beedi as beedi making was the main business of the village. She could not help comparing them to her daughter back home who had access to proper education and even had a toddler gym class at her school.
The village had government schools, but those schools lacked the proper infrastructure and the level of education given to the students was of poor quality. The villagers were also noticing the fact that Satarupa was a teacher. So, they requested her to teach their children some English. Satarupa remembers casually promising the villagers that she would come back one day and teach the children. But she did not expect that it would actually happen. In a few months, Satarupa found herself on a journey to Hingalganj to teach the children of the village.
For the next few months, she came down to the village every Saturday to teach the children. She kept her teaching job in Kolkata but waited every week for Saturday to come so she could go down to the village and educate the children and the villagers. In a few months, she took 4 acres of land in the village and made a makeshift school. However, getting kids to come regularly was difficult.
But her efforts were noticed by Amir Hussain, a school teacher in Basirhat, a town located about 30 km away from Hingalganj. Amir da, as Satarupa refers to him, helped her negotiate with the villagers and helped her to get students for her school. Thus started the school – Swapnopuron which in Bengali means ‘dream come true’.
But fate took a sad turn in 2016 when Aamir da had passed away because of a heart attack. It came as a massive shock for Satarupa. Her strong pillar of support for four long years was no longer by her side. Even in his absence, Aamir da’s faith was always with Satarupa. The school, Swapnopuron was expanding, and it was about this time that Satarupa felt the need of developing it into a high school. So, she quit her job in Kolkata and came down to Hingalganj to set up the high school.
In 2019, the school grew from 100 to 182 children, and the number kept increasing month on month. Satarupa hired more teachers. Impressed by her work, renowned changemakers in the city joined the organization as board members. Well-wishers pitched in with donations, and her team started raising retail, institutional and CSR funds.
While following the CBSE curriculum, Swapnopuron focuses on a lot of activity-based learning for primary school. From craft and culture workshops to outdoor activities and storytelling sessions — they focus on the holistic development of children. To conduct such sessions, Satarupa invites experts at regular intervals.
Although COVID-19 and the cyclone Amphan considerably affected the school, the school continued functioning. By 2021, Satarupa has expanded her school up to class 9. Today, the school charges a small fee of Rs. 100-150 per month, which is often waived off for those who can’t afford it.