The ZP school at Deslepada, which falls under the Shahapur taluka, is well known in Thane district. The school is fully digital – yet this is not its most prominent feature. That credit goes to the fact that no child living in the neighborhood is out of school. Deslewadi is primarily an adivasi area. Most students in its school are Katkari adivasi children, with a few children from small farmer or farm labourer families. The teachers are at pains to ensure that all these children receive a good education. There are several factors that make the school attractive to students: the use of computers and the internet for learning; the teaching methods based on the principles of constructivism. Besides, there are several novel school events, such as the pani puri party, a fun fair, and an education fair. These activities help to ensure that the students are happy and eager to come to school. Almost all the students are present every day.
In the academic year 2016-17, there was a break in this tradition. Ganesh Dhanke, a 5th std student, did not return to school after the Diwali vacations. It is unusual for students here to remain absent without their parents or classmates informing the teachers, but there was no news of Ganesh. This had his class teacher Doiphode ‘Madam’ very concerned. She wondered if the boy was ill, or if some other family problem was the reason for his absence.
Doiphode ‘Madam’ tried to get answers from his classmates, but Ganesh lived in a out of the way place called Kadbavpada, and no one had any information. A senior colleague, Nirbhavane ‘Madam’, suggested that Ganesh’s parents, being brick kiln workers, may well have moved to another village as was common in their profession. Now Doiphode ‘Madam’ worried about whether this possibly new place had a school and whether Ganesh was going to that school. As he had been a bright and hard-working student, his teachers were sorry he had had to leave their school midway.
The two teachers began to make inquiries in the village in order to learn more about Ganesh and his family. Finally the Deputy Sarpanch was able to confirm that the Dhanke family had moved to another village to work at a brick kiln there. This was the first time that a student from Deslewadi school had left without the school being informed. His teachers fervently hoped that the move would not affect Ganesh’s education.
There was no way to find out whether Ganesh was still going to school, as they did not even know the name of the village to which his family had migrated. The teachers became determined to discover their whereabouts. The Deputy Sarpanch introduced them to a jeep driver who had dropped the family off at a place called Kharbav. The teachers decided to travel there to meet Ganesh and his family.
But there were difficulties. They did not know where Kharbav was, or how to search for the Dhanke family once they got there. Finally, they sought out the truck driver and requested him to take them to the place where he had dropped off the family. He asked for much more money than the teachers could afford, but was persuaded to bring down the amount.
On the day of travel, Doiphode ‘Madam’, Nirbhavne ‘Madam’, and Akka who cooked the midday meal for the school’s students, left for Kharbav after school. After traveling on dusty and bumpy roads for about two hours, they arrived at their destination. Asking the locals for directions, they finally came to the brick kiln.
Getting off the truck, they noticed the temporary structures built around the kiln. Hearing the sound of their vehicle, a woman had emerged from one of these dwellings. On seeing Doiphode ‘Madam’, she beckoned them close. Ganesh’s mother had recognised the visitors, and the teachers were relieved to have found Ganesh’s family.
Ganesh’s mother gave the visitors water to drink, and just then her husband arrived home as well. The teachers said, “ We have come to find out about Ganesh! Where is he? Why did you leave for Kharbav without giving any notice to us?” By way of answering, Ganesh’s father called out to his son. Ganesh, who had been playing close by, appeared at the door. His eyes lit up with pleasure on seeing his former teachers, and he could hardly believe they were indeed standing there before him. “How come you came here?” he asked.
Ganesh’s father explained, “Bai (Madam), we need to go wherever we find work and where the contractors asks us to go. Since the new work was at Kharbav, we decided to come here. But don’t worry, we have enrolled Ganesh in the local school here. We forgot to inform you about our departure. Ganesh misses his old school very much.” Ganesh confirmed this.
The teachers were happy to find that although their student had left their school, he was continuing with his education. They spent some time with Ganesh and his family, and before leaving they advised the parents, “Please ensure that Ganesh continues with his studies, don’t make him stop midway. If you need to shift to another village, remember to take the education guarantee card with you.”
The teachers returned home satisfied. Knowing that their student had not dropped out of school was, to them, worth the time, energy and money they had spent on the trip.
Blog: Snehal Bansode-Sheludkar (with editorial inputs from Vidya Kulkarni, Pune)
Translation and editing: samata.shiksha team