The schools in Konkan are known for their good buildings and gardens. This region consists of the coastal districts of Maharashtra: Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg. Some schools are more than 100 years old. For the most part, these schools began as social initiatives, with many individuals taking the lead.
Government support would come only later, after the schools were established. Today, we have a system made up of government educational administrators, training institutions, teachers, and School Management Committees. Each component contributes in its own way, to enable schools to play the important role of awakening society, and helping individuals to realise their potential.
Konkan’s economy is largely dependent on the remittances sent by its menfolk living outside the region, mostly in cities like Mumbai and Pune. This migration has been going on since the mid-19th century, keeping pace with the industrialisation of Mumbai. With the men away, women play an active role in decision-making within families. This could explain why School Management Committees in Konkan villages tend to have a majority of women members. More mothers than fathers are active in parent-teacher committees as well. These women often come up with inspiring ideas about educational development. In wider society, too, women’s opinions and suggestions are generally respected.
Along with the students’ guardians, other residents, including alumni, also participate actively in school improvement. Salaried people donate to fund-raisers for educational materials, TV sets and computers, scholarships for deserving students. Some people might provide snacks at school events, or try to be helpful in other ways – such as felicitating teachers for their good work.
Whenever funds from government grants fall short, the wider community is on hand to facilitate the repairing of roofs, laying of water pipes, providing water tanks and other such necessities. Many even volunteer to do the work themselves: fixing electrical fittings in the classrooms; painting the school building and rooms.
Some individuals, eager to introduce interesting activities in their local schools, even visit other schools when they travel, in order to learn about any new programmes being implemented. The elected representatives here are keen on educational quality. They praise and encourage schools that are implementing innovative activities. They visit the schools often, and attend school events. It is common to see politicians’ children studying alongside farmers’ children in the local Zilla Parishad schools.
Here, as elsewhere, the Centre Head is the educational leader of a cluster of schools, supervising educational activities in the schools of several villages. She is assisted by the Principals and teachers. Whenever they hear of a new, innovative programme by the District Institute of Educational Continuous Professional Development (DIECPD), Centre Heads appeal for their centre to be selected for its implementation.
The programmes dealing with Maths and Marathi language teaching designed by the DIECPD elicited a spontaneous response from Centre Heads, who used these training modules to improve the quality of education in their own schools. The existing rapport and camaraderie between DIECPD officials and school teachers allows them to discuss educational concerns quite freely. Even in the remoter areas, the teachers are self-motivated. They make sincere efforts to teach every child, which is why we see students with special needs also performing well. The all-round cooperation between different education departments, and the innovative teaching methods used by teachers in the classroom, make learning a joy for the students.
In Konkan, the place where four roads meet is called a “tittha”. The Centre Heads, school Principals and teachers who work in the remoter areas usually live elsewhere. After school, they often meet at these crossroads or titthas, where there is usually a tea shop. Here, they chat and exchange thoughts and ideas.
At these informal gatherings, they discuss which innovative teaching practices are worthy of presentation at the annual conferences; they plan workshops for creating educational materials. It turns out that several schools in the region did not receive the math and language kits, but did not wait for these to arrive. They made exact replicas, spending their own money. Such enthusiastic teachers may be found in every other school here.
DIECPD is quick to appreciate good work done by teachers. Those who are tech-savvy are encouraged to use technology to improve the quality of education. Efforts are being made to see that every student receives quality education. DIECPD has taken on the responsibility of raising the quality of school education. Its faculty members work constantly towards this end. They organise different types of training programmes to empower Centre Heads, Principals, teachers, and resource persons.
There is a focus on training teachers to get every child in the area enrolled in school. Teachers are also trained to be inclusive – to ensure that every student gets adequate attention, not only the seemingly bright ones. DIECPD has surveyed the learning levels of all students in the district. Experts were employed to determine the levels for students with special needs. Their progress reports are studied at meetings, conducted with a creative and progressive outlook.
For instance, Ria Surve, a 4th std girl student from a school in Sangameshwar taluka, is hearing-impaired. With the help of teaching aids, she has learned to do basic Maths operations. Besides Ria’s own high motivation, her teachers Netra Pawar and Prakash Fatkure have contributed greatly to her success.
The taluka or division-wise responsibility for improving the quality of education belongs to the DIECPD faculty. Their resource persons have played a remarkable role. On the whole, Konkan society holds good education in high regard, gives importance to girls’ education, respects women, and prioritises hygienic practices. There is always public support for the DIECPD programmes. There is usually good communication between Centre Heads, teachers, students and local social organisations. These bonds have led to the joyful and cooperative work culture in the Konkan region that has made quality education possible here.
Writer: Dr I C Shaikh, Principal, DIECPD, Kolhapur district
Translation & editing: Samata.shiksha team