Tuesday, November 23, 2010


This is one example of how it can be made to work, the ones that are supposed to work. The study revealed that the following were behind the success.

1. Teachers took the teacher-training seriously
2. School admin. visited the school more than 20 times in a year i.e. once every 2-3 weeks
3. Community monitoring in the mother - teacher committee was active

And this primary school is situated in one of the backward district of West Bengal (Barjora block of district Bankura). The village has more than 90 percent population belonging to backward caste and minority community. This makes the feat even more praiseworthy.

What do we learn from this?

While on one hand there is a need to rush help to backward places but a more permanent, self-reliant system can emerge if we try to make the existing machinery work effectively, maintaining vigil, recognizing superlative effort - thereby playing a catalytic role, not running something in parallel unless there is emergency or taken up as a short term measure. Greater effort should be made to make schools already in place function better.

May be we need to understand their pain points and address them.
May be we need to arrange school level, block level and then district level competition and reward students, mentoring teachers, school admin. and recognize their effort and boost their confidence.
May be we need to take up academic oriented project like publication of magazine where every school is given 4 pages each to provide content (article, drawing etc.)
May be we need to organize workshops for teachers which would be more like a get-together, picnic, edutainment gifts for their students - no preaching but success stories will be shared (no negatives, there are and will be challenges - important is how to overcome)

I shall add more points if they occur to me, also readers are most welcome to suggest. The idea is to make them feel good, increase confidence and stand by them instead of finding faults. May be voluntary youth groups, NSS units as those in IITs join hands and treat the people working at the grass root level as partner for a stronger and better India.

The above shows that they have the potential to excel. They are spread far and wide while youth organizations are serving only pockets and often not in a sustained manner or treated as outsider. The idea is to tap the potential of whatever is already there and channelize the energy, enthusiasm of youth groups in a more effective manner.

The little experience we have gained so far, the Govt. always encourages this and there is a sense of admiration when IIT students try to reach out to villages. Come on, folks! Let's do it.

Here is the link where this study has been published today

Sunday, November 21, 2010


“At Shibpur Dinabandhu Institution, I was a backbencher. Those of us who sat at the back were treated shabbily."

What makes people take note of a backbencher? Today's edition of The Telegraph comes up with this ennobling article.

A 73-year-old retired teacher, who has almost lost an eye to glaucoma and suffers from throat cancer, has been taking classes gratis at his old school for 12 years in a state where the government had to ban private tuition so that teachers do not neglect classes.

He is Prasanta Kumar Banerjee who retired in February 1998 but his passion for teaching soon drove him back to the classroom. The Shibpur resident had cut down on classes only a year back, on the advice of doctors who had diagnosed his throat cancer.

“I love teaching, especially those who are considered backbenchers. From my experience, I know each student can do well if he is taught properly and confidence is instilled in him. Poverty and family problems keep many children from performing to their potential.”

In Banerjee’s case, poverty forced him to concentrate on studies so that he could contribute to the family income. His father Jatindranath, an employee of the Survey of India at Shillong, Meghalaya, had died when he was only a year old, leaving the family of eight desperately in need of money.

They returned to their ancestral home in Shibpur. Prasanta and two of his elder brothers were admitted to the primary section of Shibpur Dinabandhu Institution. In Class IX, he failed twice and had to switch to Praganananda Saraswati Vidhalaya.

Banerjee returned to Praganananda Vidhalaya as a teacher in 1960 after completing his BA from ND College, Howrah.

“Soon after joining, I discovered that there were many students who needed extra care. I asked them to come to my home for extra classes, for which I did not take money. But since I believe that students should give their teachers gurudakshina, I used to take a haritaki (chebulic myrobalans), a poitey (sacred thread) and 25 paise from each.”

Milan Chakraborty, a Howrah doctor who is one of the many students whose future Banerjee shaped, recounted: “All students, whether they were meritorious or not, liked to attend sir’s history and Bengali classes. He taught so well that the classes seemed fun.”

Now comes the turning point. What made this backbencher beat all where it really counts?

"At Praganananda Vidhalaya, the then headmaster, late Makhanlal Chattopadhyay, was a wonderful teacher. He encouraged and motivated me. I soon became better at studies. That was when I realised that teaching with care and affection could turn a bad boy into a good one.”

"Each soul is potentially divine," says Vivekananda, "The goal is to manifest that divinity."

(The content appeared in today's edition of The Telegrapph.)