Today the Jarewadi ZP School has classes up to the 8th std. Pawar ‘Sir’ says, “When I joined the school in 1995, some six students suddenly stopped coming to school. After making inquiries in the village, I got to know that most of them came from families whose main source of income was farm labour, specifically on sugarcane farms. As a result, the entire family would move to neighbouring districts during the harvest season. Of course, they would take the children with them and, for many, that would effectively be the end of their education.
I realised that the only way to overcome this problem was somehow to ensure that the children did not leave the village along with their parents. I began talking to the families, trying to convince them that the children could perhaps stay back with grandparents or other extended family –uncles, aunts. At times, I even had to take on the responsibility of feeding the children during this period. Gradually, I succeeded in halting the migration of students.”
In 2014, a temporary hostel was constructed in the Jarewadi School for the children from of sugarcane farm labourer families. The school received funds to the tune of Rs 15,00,000 from Sandip Kshirsagar, Speaker of the Beed District Council, for this project. The sugarcane harvesting season begins in winter. The hostel provides all the necessary facilities to take care of the students’ needs until their guardians return. Apart from meals, during this period the students are given soap, hair oil, even clothes. This has helped reduce the migration and the dropout rate.
On learning of the teachers’ tireless efforts, and the school’s improved performance, many people came forward to help. The then Deputy Speaker of the District Council, Dhairyasheel Solanke, donated Rs 51,000, and the school received around Rs 1,25,000 through community donations.
The annual gathering of the Jarewadi ZP School is a highly anticipated event. Earlier, the gathering took place in December or January, but the sugarcane laborers were not able to attend, as it coincided with the harvest season. For some years now, the dates have been shifted to summer, so that all can attend. Often, people spontaneously award prizes to the students. It is usual to raise funds of between Rs 1.5 and 2 lakhs on the day itself. One year, even the drivers of the private school buses that ferry students to and from the school contributed Rs 7000 to the school!As the scope of the event has expanded, the school has started putting up screens so that the large audiences can enjoy the performances, and the event has also started attracting sponsors! All these funds are used to improve the school infrastructure.
Today the school has 18 teachers. Sandip Pawar ‘Sir’ is devoted not only to the school but to the entire village. When he won the ‘Ideal Teacher’ Award in 2013, the village put up a large screen so that they could all watch the ceremony together. On the same day, the village also felicitated 11 other teachers.
Pawar ‘Sir’’s involvement in the village has had other kinds of a positive impact as well. Alcoholism has gone down, and the village boasts a new hand pump for water which was installed using his award money. Many students from the first batch he taught have themselves entered the teaching profession, while some have enlisted in the army.
“All that the children in rural areas need is the right opportunity. They are no less capable than their urban counterparts. All my attempts and projects, with the help of the villagers, have been to make sure that the students get these opportunities,” says Pawar ‘Sir’, adding that the school, which once had just 24 students on its rolls, now has 590.
Pawar ‘Sir’ has been teaching here for 22 years and is an important part of the village. No function is complete without his presence, be it a wedding or a funeral. Some years ago, the villagers approached the High Court to fight a case against his transfer order, and won! The Court issued a stay on the transfer of all such teachers, who were actively involved in improving the schools where they taught.
The Jarewadi School has recently installed a high-tech water purifier, with a capacity of 500 liters per hour. As one of the teachers says, “Water is very important to one’s health. Some 590 students attend this school. Sometimes they catch diseases like jaundice, or get stomach cramps, due to impure water. Then they miss school. So we made an appeal for pure drinking water for students at one of our parent-teacher meetings. Within a month, Rs 1,34,000 had been collected, and we installed the water purifier in September 2017.”
The school has a waiting list for admissions. Many parents and guardians leave the children with their relatives or even rent rooms for them so that they can study here because they are assured of the high quality of teaching at this school. Even girls who have got married and moved away from the village prefer to send their children to this school.
When asked what they would do if Pawar ‘Sir’ was transferred elsewhere, an old man, echoing the feelings of the entire village, became emotional. “We might as well give up our lives! He is a good and noble man. I never thought that my grandchildren would speak English. Please let him be, don’t take him away!”
Blog & photos: : Snehal Bansode-Sheludkar, For Comet Media Foundation
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team
(Sandip Pawar may be contacted at:
email@example.com / 9421348431)