Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

In this scenario of uncertainty and fast changing moral ethos, certain happenings revive our lost faith in humanity and act as the motivating force to go on with life with the feeling that positive developments are here to stay.

Such is the saga of a nondescript locality and a humble youth that faith in goodness and human endeavour is established once more. Everyone visiting this place cannot help but admire the tenacity and zeal of this youth, who has changed the perception of an entire cluster of poverty struck tribal families. What is more remarkable about this change is that the enthusiasm of this individual has become infectious amongst the community.

Uttam Teron, the unsung hero, and his school have brought about this change that looks so unbelievable.

As the sun greets the earth dwellers with its first rays, life here in this tribal village, nestled in the lap of verdant nature and located in the outskirts of Guwahati, begins a bit differently from the rest of the world. Here the eagerness is higher in the illiterate mothers to send their children to a school which is so different from the other conventional schools. With these mothers realising the importance of education, children who were previously compelled to help their parents to meet the daily needs of the family, are now sent with much enthusiasm to school.

The school – Parijat Academy, has revolutionised the way of thinking of the poverty struck villagers and has become a by word for determination, dedication and hard work over the years.

Located in village Pamohi in the district of Kamrup, Parijat Academy is very close to the Deepor Beel, a wetland famed for its diverse flora and fauna, and near to the Assam Meghalaya border. It is 8 kms away from Gauhati University, 15 kms from Guwahati Airport and 8 kms from the Guwahati Railway Station. The area is under Rani Block and Azara Gaon Panchayat.

A visit to this school is not only a unique experience, but also a memorable sojourn in the world of Nature, for Nature has poured all her affection into this area. Majestic hills, sacred places of tribal heritage and lavish greenery greet the eye as soon as one takes the turn on the National Highway and sets foot on the Gorchuk road leading to this school, where underprivileged children are dreaming big dreams.

It was a long conceived vision of Uttam Teron to instil love for learning in the underprivileged children whose parents have to struggle hard to make both ends meet. The Parijat Academy is the realisation of that vision.

A majority of the parents of these children labour hard to earn their livelihood and also sell home made rice beer to meet their family expenditure.

Established in 2003, and starting with just four children in a small room with a pair of desk and bench, this secular and non profit school at present has 478 students.

Education is free for these children, who are now learning subjects like Assamese, Hindi, English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Environmental Studies, Moral Education, Drawing, Recitation and Music.

What is really a treat to the eyes is the view of these children, who would have never gone to a school, punching at the keyboards of the computer.

Parijat Academy has started computer education for the school children and they are acquiring basic computer knowledge like MS Word, Ms Power point, Excel, etc.

The school also boasts of library facility for the children, which is being supported by a non resident Assamese couple.

The school covers nine tribal villages – Pamohi, Mahguapra, Deosutal, Garchuk, Mainakhorong, Dhalbama, Nowagaon, Garoghuli and Garbhanga.

Though not too far away from the capital, this area is plagued by myriad problems. The area lacks health care facilities. The literacy rate is very low. Children, specially the girls, are required to take care of household works and are deprived of education.

“We want 100 percent poor children to be educated. For this, Parijat Academy is providing free education to the children. It will take 15 to 20 years to bring the desired change in this area. It is a long term project. But we have made a beginning,” said Uttam Teron.

A beginning has been made and it is reflected in the glowing face of Rina Engti, 12 years old and a student of class VI, living in village Mahuapara and whose parents are woodcutters.

Dreaming big now is Nabakanta Bongjang, 12 years, reading in class VI and living in the Garbhanga forest village, 17 kms from Parijat Academy. His father is a cultivator. Their only source of water is a stream in the forest.

So are the other children – Indrani Rongshal, whose father died in 2004 and mother is working as a daily wage earner, Apon Bora, whose father Ratneswar is a wood cutter, and all the other children have realised the need to change their lives and most significantly, their village.

What these children have been encouraged to admire and imbibe is the positive qualities of kindness, compassion and a sense of responsibility.

Another positive development is the fact that the enrolment of girls has increased in this school. At present, the number of boys is 260 and the number of girls is 218 in the school.

Currently, the academy has classes from Nursery to VIII.

The school time starts from 9:00 am and continues to 2:00 pm.

Realising that poverty and illiteracy of the underprivileged section of the community deprives the children from education, the Academy has motivated the poor tribal parents of the children to start on micro saving and has started the Child Development Bank (CDB). The good news is that the parents have taken to micro saving and are depositing amounts like Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 15 etc, according to their capacity, in the name of their child.

The school also has hostel facility. Currently there are 14 children in the hostel. These children hail from a remote forest village 17 kms away from the school.

The Academy also has an outreach programme. It has started three pre- primary children’s education centres in three tribal villages in the Garbhanga tribal area near the Assam-Meghalaya border. It also has an adult literacy programme, which is continuing at its premises for the illiterate women.

The school is on its way towards realising the dreams of poor parents, with support from individuals and associations, but it is in need of generous contributions to fulfil the hopes of hundreds of other underprivileged children who are waiting outside its gates.

Kabita Duarah
The Assam Tribune

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