We three musketeers – Balbir Bora, Soumya Sen and yours truly visited Bundelkhand – Tahsil Rath in district Hamirpur, Uttar Pradesh to see firsthand the yeoman’s work being done by an NGO – ‘Srijan Ek Soch’.
‘Srijan Ek Soch’ was started by Prabhat Saxena, the first IITian from Rath. He is driven by the single thought – how can bright students from Bundelkhand be helped to get into best educational institutions. His passion and focus infected many more like Ravindra Gupta and Vinay Gupta (both from Rath) who have joined this mission and in 2022, 8 students including a girl from Rath were selected to join different IITs/NITs.
Our visits to schools where ‘Srijan Ek Soch’ works was a fantastic experience where we witnessed the kind of change in students and teachers who have enthusiastically joined and are supporting this endeavor. The sparkle in their eyes, the confidence with which they spoke and interacted with us was a testimony of the cliché I have heard many times – mera Bharat badal raha hai (India is changing).
However, this post is not so much about Srijan (I shall write another) but about our own (including mine) mindset. We believe instinctively (without any data or evidence) that teachers in govt schools are not dedicated and are not focused on children’s development and education. We also believe that there is one-way traffic of students between govt school and private school and students are continuously migrating from govt schools to private schools in large numbers.
I realized how wrong I was when we visited Primary school, Turna. Head of the school, Mr Om Prakash Shrivas is a simple unassuming personality and outside the school, he may be taken as one of villagers. He has no airs about him. He is a shining example of dedication and focus. When he joined as head of the school eight years back, the school had about 90 students. Now enrolment has shot up to 240. The school is also an exception that it has 10 teachers. But, the school has only five classrooms and no space for additional classrooms.
When we were brainstorming to find a solution how to get additional classrooms, he suggested that a large plot of land adjoining the school is available and the owner may be persuaded to sell it at a significant discount to the market price. He had earlier discussed it with the teachers and they would contribute from their salary which will add to about 50% of the cost. He also will be able to persuade villagers to chip in but it may leave some balance amount. We told him to go ahead and we shall figure out how to bridge the gap but the land should be acquired.
Post our discussions, we shared a delicious meal – a part of mid-day meal scheme. Normally, school is visited by a safari karmachari every day but he was absent that day. When we enquired about the lack of cleanliness, Mr Shrivas was deeply embarrassed but what he subsequently did was a classic leadership lesson.
He took a broom and started sweeping the premises and not unsurprisingly, teachers and children soon took over. Later on we learnt that he also frequently leads the safai abhiyan is the village with his broom.
Incidentally, this was the only school from where more than one student was selected in Gramin Talent Search Exam conducted by Srijan Ek Soch.
Kudos, Mr Shrivas, you made our day and changed my mindset.