Municipal schools are supposed to be bad. So when I singled out one of the three municipal schools that dot a lane passing through the congested Kalyan Puri in East Delhi, I was expecting to find a ramshackle building, with children sitting on the floor of the classrooms and a lot of waste material and broken furniture dotting the corridors and corners.

But a visit to the MCD Primary School in Kalyan Puri Block 12 came as a surprise. Though on entering the premises, I saw what I had prepared for – children sitting on the floor in their classrooms and studying – it was not all that the school had to offer.

The principal, Renu Sangat, was courteous to take me around and explained how the school infrastructure was being improved upon.

“These are the nursery classes which you just saw. They are new to the school and so are seated on a large durrie which gives them the freedom to play and interact with each other.”

Probably not finding the response she was expecting from me, Ms. Sangat, who in her 30-year teaching career has developed a fine understanding of people, said: “I will show you precisely what you have come for”.

She then took me to the new school building. “We are short of desks and have placed orders for them. But our entire primary section comprising 10 classes – two sections each for Class I to V – has desks.”

And it was true, mostly. Barring a couple of classes, which did not have any desks and where the girls sat on long strips of mats, with their books resting on their bags that served as writing desks, most of the classes had fairly good quality desks, fans and lights in place. The walls were full of posters made by both teachers and students.

The attendance was quite high and almost all the classes were full of children. “The children have got their books from NCERT. I have very intelligent girls in my school,” said the proud principal, adding “see their uniforms, they are paid money for purchasing them, but they also make an effort and turn up neat and clean”.

Asked why most of the children carried their own water bottles, she said: “They have been told to bring their own water. It is good for them. We have a filter system but it is unable to cope with the demand in the school.”

As for the mid-day meal, she said it was another attraction for the students. “So what did you all eat today?” she asked a primary class and the answer came loud and clear, Cholay chawal (gram and rice).

All this, Ms. Sangat said, had made her primary school very popular among the residents and they all want to send their children here. “But we can accommodate only a certain number. In our 12 classes we have about 550 children, giving us an average of 45 per class.”

The best part, she said, is that the school is being made more secure. “The height of walls is being raised and this would curb thefts. We have also got iron doors installed in all classrooms to prevent theft.”

And when it comes to education, she said, the children are being told about everyday developments as well. She asked the children to raise their hands if they read newspapers or watched news on television. With the show of hands revealing a good percentage of alert citizenry, she said: “We have also been telling them regularly about the recent rape cases and about issues like ‘good and bad touch’. Aware children are empowered children.”