Vasant Kunj, Delhi, India
Vasant Kunj, Delhi, India
Jharkhand’s Rajiv Shukla has taken it upon himself to empower the girls of Dhodhakola village near Jhumri Telaiya in Koderma district, through education.
In Dhodhakola village in Koderma district, a major chunk of the population lies below the poverty line. It is a fight for them every day to fulfill the basic need of food. This is why they resort to mining, so much so that even children as young as six, accompany their parents to the mines for mica digging.
Dhodhakala village is 27 kilometres away from Jhumri Telaiya town and 17 kms from Koderma district headquarter. The regions, encircled by dense forests, are famous for mica and stone mining. While restrictions have been imposed by the government on mining activities, the villagers continue to dig to make their ends meet.
It is unfortunate that despite being a mineral and forest rich state, the poverty levels in Jharkhand remain high.
In Rajiv’s words, “When I visited this place, 13 years ago for the first time, I saw that this sleepy little town nestled amidst thick forests and jungles was far from development of any kind. Education was the last thing on the minds of the people here.”
“I, along with my team conducted a survey in 2010 to analyse the level of education and found that it was extremely low and worrisome. The dialects, pronunciations, language, writing – everything had to be worked upon from scratch.
“After much research and analysis, we chalked out our plans and established an informal education centre under the banner of Imperial Academy as a project-based program which was to conduct regular classes from Monday to Saturday. But the greatest challenge was to find ways to encourage children to attend these classes and remain regular with them.”
“I was greatly touched by the plight of the girl child in these villages. They were never encouraged to go to school. They had to assist in household chores, animal rearing and grazing and even in the mines.”
Government Middle Schools were operational in the region but several challenges came in the way of girls in their education.
The schools had their separate set of shortcomings.
“We knew what lay ahead was a difficult task, but we were determined. In our Imperial Academy, we used to charge only Rs 100 as fees per month. Some were not able to pay this amount too. But no one was stopped from coming to school. In 2015, the Academy completed 5 years and thereafter the community youth has been running Saraswati Shishu Vidhyalaya in its place. We also introduced English learning and spoken English into the curriculum. And, today when these children speak in English, it fills our heart with pride.”
In recent years, there has been substantial success in the number of girls who have completed their matriculation and graduation. In a place where education was limited till grade III, it is a big thing if the girls in this region can complete their school education and aspire for further studies.
Shipra, one of the students of Imperial academy, has passed her Law examination and is all set to start her career as a lawyer. She dreams of becoming a judge someday.
For a region where poverty is high and opportunities to sustain livelihood are limited, mining gives the people the money needed to buy food.
Therefore, the villagers are left with no option but to turn to illegal mining activities.
While the government is also trying to implement livelihood schemes for the betterment of the people here, there is still a long way to go.
10 years ago, Rajiv had started this initiative in Dhodhakola village and change has come in the form of more children wanting to learn and grow. Education is slowly changing the panorama of the region.
Even the families are now keen to send their kids to school, for them to have a better future.
When we asked Rajiv to shed some light on his approach and techniques, he said that they now follow a simple principle of transfer of responsibility, wherein the educated people of the community, majorly the youth, are engaged, to impart their learning and skills to equip other members of the community, especially the children.
Additionally, Manav Vikas Dhara has been continuing the two days classes, focusing on competitive exams and on subjects like GK, English, Math, and Reasoning.
As education is increasing, opportunities are also opening. Earlier while people from outside were employed in the Anganwadis, today, the village people with basic education are engaged as Anganwadi helpers or para teachers.
This is a story of change in some of the most poverty-stricken villages of the country and education is the tool responsible for bringing out the change with efforts of people like Rajiv Shukla – the man who set out to conquer multiple challenges and gave the local community a direction to pursue education.
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