Some 700 teachers from Gevrai tehsil in Beed district have come together and raised approximately Rs 10 to 12 lakh out of their own pockets. This fund is used for various activities that are part of ‘AdhaarVidyarthiSahayataPrakalp’ (a student assistance project). Under this project, examination fees for primary school scholarship examinations are paid, and medical and financial aid provided, for schoolchildren affected by natural disasters or accidents.
Under the project, a huge drawing and painting competition is held each year around 15 August.
The project has also made possible the first Scout and Guide group for children living in the local orphanage.
This project is the brainchild of PravinKalam-Patil, Extension Officer for Gevrai no. 2.
Kalam-Patil ‘Sir’ speaks of how the idea came to him. “I was visiting my sister in Pune in 2014 when I read a news item about the felicitation of an autorickshaw driver named Wasim Khan by the then Pune mayor. This driver used to charge disabled passengers only half the fare. This led me to think that if a person with such modest means of livelihood could demonstrate such a humane attitude, people like us – teachers and officers who earned more than was sufficient for our needs – should also do something for society.”
On returning to Beed, ‘Sir’ shared these thoughts with teachers from the Mulaj Centre, at one of their meetings. And so the ‘Adhaar Family’ came into being. He says, “There is a lot of scope for work in rural areas, but I suggested that we concentrate on students and educational programmes. This was accepted, with a majority. Most teachers showed their willingness to contribute Rs 500 or even 1000 towards the project every month. But in order to ensure regular contributions, we decided that the amount ought to be affordable, and sustainable.
“At that meeting, we also agreed on constituting committees to keep accounts, to identify programmes that would be funded, and to implement those programmes, so that all decisions were taken in a transparent manner.”
“It was decided to collect Rs 500 per teacher per year. The funds were to be used to improve quality of teaching, expose rural students to sports and art, and help students who had been affected by accidents or other calamities. 33% of the amount was to be used in the first round, 34% in the next, and the remaining 33% invested in fixed deposits. After three years, the interest earned would be used to run the projects.
“We formed a decision-making committee was formed to determine how the funds would be spent, while the distribution committee would release the money and keep accounts. The Cluster Head, Principals, and graduate teachers were all part of these committees. From July 2014, the project began on an experimental basis in the Gulaj Centre.”
“The enthusiasm of the teachers in the Gulaj Centre led us to expand the scope of the project to include the entire Gevrai tehsil. In August 2014, the then Education Officer, Zilla Parishad Primary Schools, gave written consent for the project. Almost all teachers and officers in the area came forward to participate, and I became the Project Coordinator. We all felt that just as we are seeking community participation we, too, should contribute a little towards these children, who are our future.”
The teachers of the Adhaar Family meet on the 30th of every month. That is when the decision-making committee lists the projects in each centre that have been identified as needing funds. The same afternoon, the accounts committee prepares a cash flow plan to ensure that the funds are disbursed in a timely and transparent manner. As far as possible, money collected from a particular Centre is used only for schools from that Centre.
In August each year, new members are appointed to both committees. At that time, the earlier committees present the balance sheets for the previous year.
Environment Awareness and Protection
Each participating school is presented with a banyan tree sapling. The idea is for the school to nurture it into a tree. In January every year, all 172 schools in the group are given soil and black bags along with seeds of Gulmohar, tamarind and other trees. The schools are expected to distribute these seeds, bags and soil to each student. During summers, it is the responsibility of the students to nurture these plants and, in the monsoons, the resultant saplings are planted around the schoolyard, or even the students’ own houses or farms. Through the project, more than 20,000 trees have been planted across the tehsil.
Kalam-Patil ‘Sir’ says, “In a district like Beed, with its perennial shortfall of rain and subsequent water shortage, it is only if we increase the green cover that we can hope to change the situation. And this afforestation effort has brought about an unusual reward for one school, which became digital because of it! The school was falling short of funds in their efforts to digitalise. So, in the year 2016-17, the teachers there prepared around 2000 saplings and sold them to commercial establishments in the nearby urban localities. From the money thus earned, the school completed its digitalisation plan.” Kalam-Patil Sir also expressed his gratitude towards the then Chief Education Officer Namdeo Nanavare for providing saplings for the nursery project.
Financial Aid for Scholarship exams
All students from the schools belonging to the AdhaarParivar are coached for the primary level school scholarship examination. The aim is to get all the students to appear for this exam. Adhaar also pays the Rs 34,400 examination fee for the students and provides them with study materials worth almost as much. The teachers, too, put in extra efforts to prepare their students, by holding practise tests 15 days prior to an exam.
Drawing and Painting competitions
Just before 15 August every year, Adhaar holds a huge drawing and painting competition for almost 16,000 students altogether. Around Rs 15,000 worth of art, materials are provided. The winner receives a certificate on 15 August.
On 26 January, a general knowledge exam is held where the winners are given prizes.
Apart from these competitions, debates, music and essay-writing competitions are held throughout the year. Efforts are made to enable students to meet the writers or poets whose writings are included in their textbooks. A big sports meet is also organised every year.
Scout & Guide clubs
The ‘Adhaar Family’ has started more than 100 cub, scout and guide clubs in the Gevrai tehsil, including the first scouts-and-guides club for children of the Sahara Orphanage near Gevrai. Adhaar has presented these scouts and guides with their uniforms, and they are invited to a two-day camp where they are taught rope climbing, rappelling, and other adventurous sports of the kind in which students from rural areas rarely get a chance to participate.
Nature Trails & picnics
Adhaar arranges field trips for its students, in August or September. They visit a nearby temple or a farm, observe nature, and play outdoor games. Sometimes an event is arranged in which they might meet a writer, a folk artist, or even attend a magic show.
The Adhaar Vidyarthi Sahayata Prakalp also provides medical and financial help to students in distress.
School Savings Bank
A novel initiative under this project is the school savings bank. Kalam-Patil ‘Sir’ says, “I had implemented the savings bank programme in 2008 in my beat, Gevrai no. 2, even before the Adhaar Family was established. The aim is to instil the habit of saving among students and keep them away from spending money on junk food. In rural areas, even parents or family members often do not have bank accounts. Often, the students lend money to their guardians, or pay for their own educational materials or for a picnic contribution.”
‘Sir’ narrates the story of Sajid Khwajabhai Sheikh, a student from Agarnandur ZP School. Sajid’s father had a small business which earned barely enough to make ends meet. Obviously, he did not have a bank account. Once, when Khwajabhai fell ill, he refused to go to the local dispensary for a check-up, afraid that he could not afford the cost of treatment. When Sajidrealised this, he withdrew Rs 500 from his account in the school bank, gave the money to his father, and insisted that he seek medical help. Khwajabhai was overwhelmed and has since given up his tobacco addiction. He now not only regularly gives Sajid money to put into his account, but has also started saving some money himself.
The project has turned out to be a real “Adhaar” (support) for students like Sajid. The Maharashtra government felicitated Kalam-Patil ‘Sir’ with the 2016-17award of excellence
Blog: SnehalBansode-Sheludkar, for the Comet Media Foundation.
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team