December and January are the favourite months of the academic calendar. It is then that the students get to do all the things they enjoy – such as the annual sports meet, the school gathering, and the annual school trip. The weather, too, is pleasant and refreshing. The students play to their hearts’ content, connect with nature during school trips, and showcase their talents during the annual school gathering. The teachers, too, enjoy themselves along with the students. The school trips planned at this time are usually to nearby picturesque locations, like waterfalls, well-known gardens or other famous landmarks. Sometimes, students may be taken on a visit to some large factory in the vicinity.
The annual school trip of the Lekha (Mendha) ZP secondary school in Gadchiroli was, however, unique. This year, its students were taken to visit important administrative offices, where they were given the chance to have one-on-one interactions with the officials. It was not particularly surprising that this school should plan such a trip, as Lekha (Mendha) is known in the region for its slogan: ‘Our village, our government’, besides achieving a 100% implementation of prohibition on alcohol, and taking each public decision by consensus.
What prompted the school administration to organise such a trip? Often, ordinary citizens are intimidated if they need to visit the district council or municipal corporation offices. The imposing buildings, finding one’s way from this to that department, getting a signature from a senior official – these are daunting tasks for many of us. Which led the school Principal and teachers to conclude that if their students were expected to become responsible citizens, they must understand the workings of administrative institutions.
So, on 10 January, 2017, the students of the Lekha ZP school went on a picnic. They reached Gadchiroli town in an hour. They had breakfasted before leaving, and had enjoyed the journey. Their first stop in Gadchiroli was the District Collector’s office, where they were to meet ASR Nayak, the District Collector. The group entered his cabin at the appointed hour. Mr Nayak welcomed the students and teachers, and inquired about their itinerary. He also gave them a few sightseeing tips. Then he briefly explained the responsibilities of his office to the students, chatted with them for a few minutes more, and, after wishing them bright futures, he left to keep his other appointments.
Next, the students visited the National Informatics Centre within the Collector’s office. They particularly enjoyed this part of the visit, as it helped them understand how the NIC played a major role at the district level in giving an impetus to science and information technology. They learned that the websites of most government departments, district councils and municipal corporations are almost always developed by the NIC. Email services, and video conferencing services between district headquarters, are also enabled by the NIC. , It has digitised all information that appears on the 7/12 certificate (issued to every farmer or agricultural land owner in Maharashtra) as also information about the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan(the State Government’s programme which aims to make Maharashtra drought free by 2019) related to the Gadchiroli district. The students were given a demonstration of the newly launched ‘National Child Tracking System’ used to track missing children.
After a visit to the Police Superintendent’s office, the students reached the District Council offices, where they met the presiding Chairperson, Prashant Kuttarmane, and spend a few minutes in conversation with him. They then toured the various halls and chambers of the Council, before moving on to the office of the Chief Executive Officer, Shantanu Goyal. Goyal spent about half an hour with the students, asking them about themselves, their families, and so on. When he asked them to show him where they had travelled from, the students accurately pointed out Lekha village on the district map hung in his office.
Then the CEO suggested that the students ask him a few questions. They asked him his name and his father’s name, and asked about his educational qualifications and his work. The CEO answered all their questions, except that instead of telling them his name, he prompted them to find it for themselves, as it was displayed in English within his office. To encourage them, he announced a small reward of Rs 50 for each student who could find the nameplate and read out the name on it. Some seven students raised their hands and chorused, ‘Shantanu Goyal!’ He then asked them to name the direction in which the nameplate was displayed. ‘East!’ came the prompt reply.
The CEO then handed over the total reward money of Rs 350 to the teacher, Prajakta Meshram ‘Madam’, requesting her to treat all the students to some sweets. The teacher added some school money to the amount and bought ‘balushahi’ and ‘barfi’ for the children
The students then met Deputy Chief Executive Officer Vijay Mulik and Deputy Education Officer MN Chalakh. They also visited the Departments of Education and of Agriculture.
By this time they were all tired and hungry. They went to the nearby Smruti Udyan (gardens) and, after washing their hands and feet, polished off the packed lunches they had brought from home as well as the sweets that the teachers had bought for them. Even as they ate, they continued to chat excitedly about everything they had seen and learned. They were particularly impressed with the Collector’s and CEO’s offices and their positions of authority. Akash Madavi and Rita Amoti expressed their desire to become ‘Big Sahebs’ like the Collector or CEO. They asked their teachers what they would have to study in order to fulfill this dream. The teachers gave them detailed information about all the competitive exams for the civil services. After playing in the gardens for a couple of hours, the students returned home – many with dreams of becoming officers.
Blog: Nakul Lanjewar, Primary teacher, ZP Primary School Kosabi, Gadchiroli
Translaton and editing: samata.shiksha team