Tembhepada is a village with a 100% Adivasi population. Located in the Shirpur taluka of Dhule district, the ZP primary school of Tembhepada sets an example for other schools in Adivasi “padas” (hamlets). This school boasts a freshly painted building, a ramp for disabled students, a digital classroom with a projector, a hand-wash station with several taps, a water tank that is cleaned every week, and dedicated teachers who think up a variety of projects and programmes for their students. However, the most important feature of the school is the active participation of the Pawra (an Adivasi tribe) villagers.
While on a tour of Northern Maharashtra, the samata.shiksha team visited this remote Pawra community village. What surprised us was how the villagers gathered enthusiastically in the school as soon as they heard about us visitors! A far cry from the situation just a couple of years ago, when it was difficult even to retain students in school here. But the Principal Bhimsingh Raul and the other teachers were determined to change this situation, and were making every effort in that direction.
In 2015, Dr Vidya Patil, Principal, DIECPD Dhule, held a motivational meeting in the village, and things gradually started changing for the better. At this meeting Dr Patil interacted with the villagers and explained the RTE (Right to Education) Act and the need to educate every child in the village. Speaking in their mother tongue (Pawra), Dr Patil emphasised that schooling was the means to a better future for their children. At the same time, she called on the villagers to help improve the school in whatever ways they could. She elaborated that all assistance would be welcome, be it monetary, or in the form of free labour or teaching the students a skill.
The villagers got together and collected Rs 35,000. The first task they undertook was to repair and paint the school building. Many donated their labour. Community participation also helped the school build a digital classroom with a projector.
This school in Tembhepada follows the constructivist principles of teaching. It makes extensive use of the projector to show videos of nursery rhymes, educational games and other such audio visual resources. Seeing how drawn the students are to moving images, the school has also screened acclaimed children’s films like ‘Bokya Satbande’, ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and ‘Blue Tota’. Activities of this nature have made school very attractive to the students.
Just like other schools that follow the constructivist methodology in teaching, this school makes generous use of educational aids, charts, and drawings on the floor and walls, to explain mathematical and other educational concepts. The students are taken to nearby farms to understand the different steps of agricultural production, right from sowing to harvesting. They are taken to visit the local blacksmith, cobbler, carpenter and potter to understand these trades and, wherever possible, are encouraged to try their hand at these processes. Such visits are meant to help students realise that for progress to occur, mental intelligence and physical work must go hand in hand.
This school runs the ‘Meena Raju Manch’ programme for adolescent boys and girls. It also has a distinctive seating arrangement, where a girl and a boy sit next to each other and work together in group assignments. A students’ council helps with discipline and school management, and has equal representation of girls and boys. Parent-teacher meetings are held regularly. The Anganwadi (play school) helper and the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) helper visit the school, to interact with students who are approaching puberty and help them with their doubts and misconceptions, if any. Students have regular medical check-ups, and the doctor, too, talks to them about issues related to growing up and adolescence.
The villagers’ involvement in the school has started a tradition whereby educated youth from the village conduct classes in subjects in which they are proficient. The school has four enthusiastic teachers, in addition to the Principal. Each teacher speaks Pawra fluently, which eases interaction with the students and helps persuade them to attend school regularly. Parents are welcome to visit the school at any time, to learn more about how their wards are doing. Besides this, a programme called ‘Chavdi Vachan’ (‘Public Reading’) is held in the village square, during which students are asked to read aloud from a given book, magazine, or newspaper, in accordance with their ages. All students have to participate, to showcase their progress for parents and guardians.
The teachers use word cards and other methods to improve language skills and vocabulary. Their students have won many awards at cultural events and general knowledge competitions. The villagers are convinced that the teachers are making sincere efforts to impart quality education to their children, and so the village council solidly supports the school. It has helped the school acquire funds to the tune of Rs 1,15, 000 under the PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Area) Act. The school in turn has used these funds to improve the digital classroom and other aspects of infrastructure. Even the teachers jointly contribute a sum of Rs 10,000 per year for school improvement.
The teachers remain alert in order to ensure that not a single child from the village stays out of school. There is a hand pump on the school premises that is used by the villagers to draw water. Jamuna Pawra, an out-of-school girl who used to come to the pump to fetch water, was enrolled in Std 4 after an intervention by the teachers. Today she is studying in Std 7 at a school in nearby Kharekhan. Kiran Pawra was also one such out-of-school boy, who was enrolled in Std 4. Observing the progress made by their children, parents are now demanding that the school which now has classes only up to Std 5 should be extended up to Std 7.
Attention is paid to the nutritional value of the midday meals provided in school. The school has separate toilets for boys and girls. The water tank is cleaned and a water disinfectant added to it every week. A reading of the daily news accompanies prayers during school assembly. Not surprisingly, this school is the first among both private and government schools in Dhule district to win ISO, (The International Organization for Standardization) certification.
Blog and photos: Snehal Bansode-Sheludkar
Translation and editing: samata.shiksha team