– Asmita Bailmare
Kuhi Phata is a settlement of about 180 houses and 600 population in Kuhi taluka, mainly Gonds, Pardhis, Dalits and other migrant families working in stone quarries and other laborers. Only two classrooms for about 50-60 children of the first five classes and only one teacher who is constantly busy with other work. Therefore, more than 92% of the children in the settlement did not meet their grade level language and math skills. Despite such a pathetic state of affairs, no one is holding the school accountable for the last 15 years due to the parents only occupied with the worries of daily bread and butter and lack of awareness about education. But on 25 July 2022, two important events took place. 25-30 parents of the village, Gram Panchayat member Amar Dada and activist Neelmani Dada went to the school and met the headmistress Deepa Rangari. They listened to the problems of the teacher too and decided to present this issue at the Gram Panchayat. They visited the Gram Sabha in Surgaon Gram Panchayat and showed the courage to raise the issues along with the teacher regarding the condition of the school, problems in children’s education, shortage of classrooms and shortage of teachers. How did this happen?
Our organization Learning Companions has been working for the past one year to improve the quality of education here with the help of Zilla Parishad administration, villagers and the schools. This year, due to some reasons, we were restricted from actually teaching the children. So, at the organization level, we decided to focus on raising awareness of parents and helping to improve the schools. Under this initiative, we launched a comprehensive survey on parents’ perception about the status of their children’s education, the factors responsible for it and what can be remedial actions.
In this, we went to every home and met every parent, we checked how many children are taking primary education in the house, whether those children are progressing according to their age or not. Also, we collected some basic information like how active parents are in the education process of their children, about teaching in the school, whether the children can read and write, whether they visit the school. We noticed that the educational situation of the children there is very poor, the children are progressing to the next grade every year, but their basics are not clear. They can’t count, can’t write, don’t know alphabets, and many other problems were seen while conducting this survey.
Thinking about what we should do about it, we felt that we can make people aware about the School Management Committee (SMC), the rights of parents in it, the responsibility as parents, and we were trying to make people aware as much as we could. One day we met a 38-year-old gentleman named Neelmani Vahane while surveying. No child in his family is of school age, but he was interested. He asked us for our identity card, who we are, where we are from. From there we got a representative to support our work.
While our survey and assessment work was going on, we met some more people, explained our point, while doing so we met Amar Shambhu Katote, Gram Panchayat member of Kuhi Phata. We told him about the education of the children and the condition of the school. He understood and gave us ideas on what we can do together.
In this process we met some strong parents, Gram Panchayat member Amar Dada, activist Nilamani Dada and we decided to gather all the citizens/parents of Kuhi Fata Vasti and hold a meeting. We reached there after making all the preparations for the meeting. We were a little worried. Questions started in the mind whether people will leave their work for the meeting, whether they will listen to us. Some people had gathered when we reached, we were served tea and water at Mr. Amar Katote’s house, till then Neelmani Dada gathered the people. Our meeting started and we were pleasantly surprised. Unexpected number of people attended here. There was no place left to sit on the floor. Some were sitting in the courtyard of their house, while some were listening from wherever they could find a place and asking their questions. We received such a positive response that we had not thought about. In this we listened to the questions of the parents and made them think about what would be a permanent solution in terms of education for them. Some of the points were that they need to stand up for themselves, for their children’s education, understand the situation of the school and how it can be improved by meeting with the teacher and cooperating with them. The functions and powers of the SMC were discussed. While all these matters were being discussed, another very happy and pleasant news was received from this congregation that on the very next day, based on the information received about the SMC, school situation in the last two weeks, 25-30 parents, Gram Panchayat member Amar Dada and activist Neelmani Dada went to the school and met the Head teacher, Mrs. Rangari, discussed the serious situation in terms of children’s education in detail with her and the parents raised their questions. Teacher shared her own problems to the parents, among them lack of teachers, problems with classrooms, etc. The biggest question of the parents was what about the children’s education. They listened to the problems of the teacher too and decided to present this issue in the Gram Panchayat. Incidentally the next day was also the Gram Panchayat GramSabha. They went to the Gram Sabha in Surgaon Gram Panchayat and showed the courage to raise issues along with Madam regarding the school situation, problems in children’s education, shortage of classrooms, shortage of teachers. Also all of them gave a letter to the Gram Panchayat with their signatures.