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CRAYONS OF HOPE

We are living in a world of unprecedented opulence, a kind of world which was difficult to imagine even a few decades back. But with the advancement of the contemporary civilization along with the gigantic effect of globalization and urbanization in each and every corner of the globe, what becomes a matter of apprehension for the civilized society are the

socio-economic insecurity, international political instability & conflict and unequal distribution of wealth which has resulted into an increased magnitude of children’s vulnerability. India, one of the largest democracies of the world, is not an exception ofcourse.

With population explosion on the one hand, limited allocation of resources and accountability on the other, the dream of achieving MDG 2 i.e. achieving universal primary education especially in third world countries like India, in reality is still a long way to go. The harsh reality of the elementary education on the ground of world’s 3rd largest education system, compel us to mull on the fact of its operational strategy as well as the accountability of the duty bearers and awareness among the target stakeholders and most importantly the kind of quality education our current generation & future of this country are getting.

New horizons, vibrant state, colourful people with their rapidly changing lifestyle, modernisation — in one word metamorphosis – this is what West Bengal is. On one hand it has fascinating culture, rich history & heritage and modern, techno-savvy, upwardly mobile people, on the other hand the picture of rural Bengal demonstrates it’s suffering from multi-dimensional and multi-pronged problems especially the because of its political wavering in current context. ‘No’ –  is  the response from every corner which is mushrooming. But, isn’t there any positivity which can inspire us to dream for a better Bengal for children? Let’s have a tour through one of the primary schools of one of the far-flung village in the land of Bengal which is decorated by the natural beaches and a unique biosphere of the Sunderbans in south.

Dakshin Durgapur Kanaelal Abaitanik Prathamik Vidyalay, a primary school located at Dakshin Durgapur , a far-flung village of Digambarpur GP, Patharpratima Block, South 24 Parganas district. The moment we saw the school from 50 metres away,  the first question that came in our mind was ‘Isn’t it so attractive?’ Crossing a narrow muddy lane from the concrete road we reached the school. The first thing that touched us was the visual call of the school. The boundary wall is well decorated with the simple yet useful messages and pictures of philosophers and intellectuals. The concrete school building, separate toilets, kitchen for Mid-day Meals and even the ground, everything is maintained properly and the special concern has been given on the hygiene and cleanliness. We had a brief discussion on the functioning of the school with the Head Teacher, Mr. Dulal Chandra Pramanik, a hardworking and humble person with immense devotion towards the development of children of the village.

The Village of Dakhin Durgapur is mainly dominated by the Muslim population. The major source of occupation of the village is mainly agriculture. Though the source of livelihood of a certain population are daily wage activities as the Patharpratima Block is adjacent to Kolkata. The School was established in 2007; the land was donated by a local village dweller. The school was started with 7 students which now stands at 100 with 3 permanent teachers on board. Majority (85%) of the students comes from the Muslim background and all the students belong to the BPL family. The average attendance of the students is more than 75%. One of the major factors to ensure sound attendance is the Mid Day Meal. It has been observed that if the school drops Mid Day Meal (MDM) for one day the attendance goes down upto 50%. There is a separate kitchen shed for preparing the MDM. The responsibility of the MDM is given to the local SGSY group. Though regular monitoring of quality of food, hygiene of the kitchen and pecuniary aspects are done by the school teachers and Children’s Cabinet. Generally, the daily monetary allotment (INR 300) for MDM compel the school to opt vegetarian meal; but when the students get bored with the vegetarian meal, they drop the MDM of one day (preferably Saturday) in consent with the students and Children’s Cabinet and on the very next day they prepare fish or any other non-vegetarian food for the students. Recently, the school has applied for gas cylinder for preparing the MDM.

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This school has one Children’s Cabinet, one VEC and also a Steering Committee. We were mesmerised by interacting with the Children’s Cabinet members. The Children’s Cabinet was formed and Children Ministers were selected democratically in consent with all the students. Each of the Children Minister is well aware of their roles and responsibilities. We had a brief talk with the Prime Minister and Food Minister. The Prime Minister, Ajijul, students of IV stated, ‘I feel very proud being the PM of the Children Cabinet and I have given several responsibilities starting from monitoring the classroom attendance to ensure the functioning of other ministers.’ Recently the school has formed a Steering Committee comprising the guardians of the students and the SC regularly monitors the school activities. Celebrating events like Children’s Day, Republic Day, Independence Day encourages the students a lot. To bridge the gap of the slow learners the school provides the list of the weak students to CRY partner Jana Sanaskriti. Jana Sanskriti through their interim services of providing bridge classes ensure that all the weak students are updated as per their respective classes. Last year, one student viz. Anwar of class III was enrolled into JS bridge class and after a year of attending the class he stood 3rd in the class. Being a humble person, Mr. Dulal gave all the credits to Jana Sanskriti bridge classes.

Resulting which of all the above mentioned, one of the recent survey that has been done by the school shows zero dropouts from the school. But that’s not the end. The school is still in touch with the School Inspector asking for one more teacher. They are planning for kitchen garden in one of the land adjacent to the School. Last year they tried it; but because of the absence of fencing it was not successful. We suggested the Head Teachers to lobby with the GP for tagging MGNREGA with the Kitchen garden. Our discussion with the Gram Panchayat Pradhan, Mr. Rabindranath Bera throws light on the fact that Patharpratima is the only Model Block of West Bengal and out of the 4 Model GP, Digambarpur is one. We found Mr. Bera a very active and cooperative person. His way of interaction with the village dwellers is very modest. He shared that he visits the schools and ICDS centre on regular basis. Mr Dulal, Head Teacher of the schools also praised Mr. Bera for this active participation in the development activities.

So, what is your perception after reading this real story? Despite of the harsh veracity surrounding us, isn’t it a ray of hope for the children from less-privileged cohort of society?

(The author works with the Development Support Unit, West Bengal, CRY – Child Rights and You)

 

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