Saturday, September 12, 2009
All is not lost
I had lamented in my last post the plight of education and the dearth of good teachers to train young minds. True, the teaching profession has lost its charm thanks to their underpaid and over worked condition. However all is not lost. The pictures posted above indicate the effort of Mrs. Anjali Bose, a seventy three year old social worker who has taken it on herself to do her bit for the girl child in Jharkhand. Her school is called 'setu vidyalaya' or 'bridge school'. The Jharkhand government identified her organization and gave her the job of coaching 50 girls between the age of 9 and 14 and raise their level of understanding to that of Grade 6 in a regular school identified by the government. Their education upto the 12th grade would then be the responsibility of the state government. These girls had to be school drop outs as certified by the headman of their village. The school was to be a residential one and the time granted to them was 9 months. She was supposed to appoint a teacher, an assistant teacher and a cook.
Mrs. Anjali Bose was already running a sewing class in her house in the outskirts of Jamshedpur. She converted it to a residential school and within 4 months the change undergone by these girls was visible. Today at least 30 of these students expect to be absorbed in the school marked out for them. They take their exams in February 2010.
The government carries out periodic checks and the grant is given out in part after ensuring that the previous amount has been properly utilized. The cause for cheer mainly lies in the fact that palms were not greased to obtain it nor does she plan to press for renewal of the project. Should the authorities consider her competent renewal should automatically follow is her stand.
It is not as if it was a cake walk all the way. Parents were wary and suspicious of her intentions. More than other things parents from a rural background had to be convinced about the importance of educating the girl child. A truly service minded teacher had to be appointed, who would agree not only work for the pittance paid to her but also double up as honorary store keeper cum warden. Many of the girls were illiterate and had to be taught from scratch. The government allowance covered only the children's board and lodge. The 5 staff members ie 2 teachers, a cook, a gatekeeper and maid who kept a round the clock vigilance on these young girls were perhaps expected to live on fresh air and water. Extra bathrooms had to be built, bed and bed linen had to be provided, at least 2 sets of uniforms had to be stitched and a buffer amount kept ready to counter any delay in payment by the government. Then there was always a chance of the girls falling ill so that too had to be taken care of.
Luckily, all these issues have been addressed. The teacher who works for them is sincere and efficient. She has her own set of problems but she still manages to teach these children some singing and gets involved in their physical training and games too. They are given simple chores to do and a healthy foundation to community living is being imbibed by these children albeit unconsciously.
The photographs above were taken on Independance day and in the first photograph Anjalidi can be seen addressing the gathering. This is an example of good work done against all odds and the dearth of good teachers that society faces is not because they are underpaid but rather because the importance of the profession has been conveniently forgotten. But I still insist that all is not lost.