Giving wings to students' dreams
It was the summer of 1987, I was only 23 when I joined a primary school at Keskutul, Bhairamgarh, a severely Naxal-affected region of Madhya Pradesh, as a junior teacher. I was young and motivated, and I firmly believed that education could change the fate of this backward village by empowering the helpless villagers.
Ten days in the school, and I was beginning to understand why classes were empty-- villagers, under the threat of Naxalites, didn’t want their children to study at the school.
When I asked fellow teachers and the elderly in the village to convince the villagers to send their children to school, they refused, saying it would be foolish on their part to risk the lives of their children.
But I didn’t want to give up. I went door to door every day to convince the villagers to send their children to school. Their biggest fear was the naxalites attacking their children on the way to school. So, we had to ensure a safe transport for them. I spoke to the officials in the education ministry and they cooperated-- we created a hostel facility for students in the school.
The school had the students now. At the school, we tried to create an environment where they could feel safe and concentrate on learning. Besides, we gave them nutritious food to ensure their proper growth and development.
Gradually, the attitude of parents, villagers, and most importantly children, towards education changed and the enrollment as well as attendance in the classrooms improved. I was in this school for just four years, but my students still remember me, some of them are working in good positions in both the government and the private sector.
It’s been 32 years and I have since taught at several schools in rural areas. But unfortunately, even after so many years, we are still struggling when it comes to making education accessible to all the children in the country.
Four years, back, when I joined my present school in Jagdalpur as a principal, it didn’t even have a boundary wall, the locals who were against sending children to schools would often barge into our classes to create ruckus. There were times we had no option but to shut down the school for days.
The condition of this school reminded me of my first job.
But this time I was prepared to tackle the situation. I met the parents of every child in the village and convinced them about the importance of education. Interestingly, most of the mothers -- women are the decision-makers in this part of India-- were supportive. They wanted their children to study and pursue a well-paying career. And I promised them that they will.
Today we have 350 students in our school, 90 of them are girls. These students are bright and have big dreams. They like to learn through innovative ways, they are articulate and, they like asking questions.
Technology comes naturally to them.
I have a new challenge before me now—how to provide appropriate training to our teachers so that they are ready to give wings to their students’ dreams.
(The writer is principal, Primary School, Kalipur, Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh. Views expressed are personal)