Written by Rupsing Majhi, Sikhya Sathi
When I joined Swasthya Swaraj as a SIKHYA SATHI, I was given the responsibility of improving the state of Kachalekha Govt Primary school. It is a High School in the Kerpai GP. Children from Kerpai, Kachalekha, Tadadei, Pindapadar, Chimrang, and Mardiguda villages and hamlets come to this school for doing their studies. The number of enrolled children in this school is more than 300, but the average number of children actually attending the school used to be about 13. Some hamlets and villages had boycotted the school and none from those villages were attending this school. There was a huge gap between teachers and children, and they avoided the school.
One of the primary responsibility as a Sikhya Sathi is to improve the community involvement and to improve the interest of children on schools. This turned out to be a big challenge. I found that in the villages the parents did not force or encourage the children to go to school as they themselves did not find relevance in the school education. Children were roaming around, grazing cows and goats or going to donger. I found it difficult to engage the children in conversation as they tried to avoid me as they assumed that I’m also a teacher. It was saddening to see that even a child of 12/13 years did not know to read and write Odiya or English alphabets and do basic arithmetic.
I did not give up and I pursued my efforts. I visited the villages and hamlets daily, called the children from their homes. I continued doing it day everyday even when the children avoided me, even when the parents did not cooperate with me. It was discouraging at times. Having a word with the brothers in SSS would encourage me again. I later started to organize games for them, tell stories, make them tell stories, used song as a medium to teach them to count numbers, do physical exercises, nurture interpersonal communication between the children and other ways. I also took efforts to make the parents see value in school education. I visited all the 6 villages and met the parents in their houses to talk to them about why school education is crucial in these times. Soon I was able to establish a friendly connection with most of the parents. Quite frequently, I organized village meetings in each village and hamlet to talk about the importance and necessity of Education with the help of my senior colleagues in Swasthya Swaraj. I accompanied the children from the village to the school daily in the morning where the resistance was the highest.
Slowly the resistance reduced and change started happening. Students started coming to the school and the number and regularity improved gradually over a period of 5-6 months. Now more than 100 students attend the school regularly. I find that now the children are not as shy as they were earlier, and they now freely ask me doubts. I feel so happy and gratified to see that their personality is slowly blooming. Even though I picked up the job out of necessity, I have become passionate about teaching the children now and children also look out for me daily. Even during the summer vacation, I’m going to the villages to meet them and teach them. As soon I come to their villages, they come with their pen and paper and slates to study!