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Ex-British officer helps rebuild Punjab schools

March 01, 2008 12:45 IST

A former senior British police officer has raised around Rs 50 lakh in the UK and rebuilt at least five elementary schools in rural Punjab after coming across a dilapidated village school building seven years ago.

For the residents of Seham village, former Derbyshire County CID chief David Gee is a "godsend" as he has not only upgraded their school, but also teaches English and Maths whenever he is in Jalandhar.

The newly constructed school building has an impressive makeover with the tricolour painted on the parapet.

His organisation is also extending financial help of Rs 200 per month to eight students from poor families and paying the salaries of the newly appointed teachers.

"The children love Gee and call him 'Gora', perhaps unaware that the term may be offensive," says Ravinder Singh Kang, who is in charge of Seham elementary school.

Gee's preferred garment is 'kurta-pajama' and he has also picked up a bit of Punjabi.

"Baccho iddaan na karo (Children, don't be naughty). Hole hole bolo' (Please speak slowly)," one can often hear him say.

Gee has been raising funds through charities with UK-based NGO Children and Youth Development Organisation for improvement of the rural basic education infrastructure.

Seham is the native village of Gee's NRI friend Balbir Singh along with whom he first visited India in April 2001 but today people wear T-shirts bearing the name and it is also a website for raising funds for rural schools in Punjab.

"The elementary school building here was virtually falling apart. There were no desks, chairs or writing implements and children were without cover when I came on a holiday in 2001," Gee said.

The former policeman, who is currently a consultant with the British Home Office on crimes relating to homicide and sexual offences, said he did not have enough money to bring about a visible change.

"I then decided to collect funds under the banner of  Village Seham School Appeal and started a website," Gee said, adding it has collected Rs 40 to 50 lakh through charities in the UK and five school buildings in villages of Punjab reconstructed so far.

He said talk shows and dance recitals by Indian artistes were organised and the British government also contributed to the organisation run by Gee, his wife Susie and Balbir Singh.

Gee said they are organising the 'Three Peaks Challenge' in the UK in which the participants will wear T-shirts with the slogan: "We Climb Every Mountain For Seham."

He hopes to raise another Rs 5 lakh through the event in which around 30 persons will also walk from Hatton to Durby to collect funds.

Organisations like the Retired Teachers' Association are also lending a helping hand while in India they have been assured aid from the NGO Reach.

Gee started out after the village panchayat requested him to take control of the school, which now gets visiting  teachers from Britain. Some more are expected to come in July, he said.

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