1. An unofficial estimate puts the number of Saraswati Shishu Mandir (SSM) schools operating in India in 2010 at 17,000.
2. Before the start of any class, a ‘zero period’ is held in which teachers tell students stories from history, the freedom struggle, and theology.
3. Male teachers are called ‘Acharyas’ and females are addressed as ‘Didis’.
4. All SSM schools are run by Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan or simply Vidya Bharati, the educational wing of RSS with its headquarters in Lucknow.
5. Nanaji Deshmukh, an RSS luminary, founded the first SSM in Gorakhpur in 1952.
6. The SSM was founded to counter the Congress government’s 1948 ban on the Gita model school, which was started by then RSS chief M.S. Golwalker in 1946.
7. The unique system of SSM makes it the only school in India where students sing Vande Mataram everyday at closing time of the school.
8. Most SSM schools follow the CBSE syllabus and use NCERT books as study material.
9. Shanti Path, a prayer song for peace and prosperity of humanity irrespective of religion, is sung in every SSM school.
10. Education is provided free of cost to tribal students and students from North East of India.
11. Class rooms are named after freedom fighters, spiritual leaders or historic luminaries.
12. No, SSM is not exclusively a Hindi-medium school chain; they have fully English-medium schools too.
13. Some schools operate under the name of Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandir, but they, too, follow the Vidya Bharati system.
This image is for illustration purposes only. Himanshu Sharma/Creative Commons
14. SSM Pagara Road, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh has, perhaps, the most state of the art campus of all.