A government school teacher in the remote village of Anantnag, Gulzar Ahmad Padder transformed the school and inspired children in the tribal community to pursue education. The teacheris a perfect example of a committed teacher.
It was in the year 2019, when he was posted in the Government Middle School Bidhard in Vailoo Zone which has 100% SEDG (Socio-Economic Disadvantaged groups) students who all belong to the schedule tribe (ST) community. The number of students was very low, with just a few dozen attending school.
The teacher said, the students who attended school were between 30-40, although on records there were up to 100 students.
“The tribal community usually migrates to upper reaches taking all the school-going children with them, which was a challenging job to cope with. Moreover, the community seemed completely disinterested and unmotivated about education. The school atmosphere wasn't up to the mark and failed to match the aspirations of the students and the community, Padder said, adding that in order to get them on track of education, the first thing to do was to renovate the school which was a challenge for the entire staffand at the same time institutional management wasn't up to the expectations of the community.
He started an initiative and named it “Mission Empowerment” and today half of the tribal community drops their school-going children at their relatives' homes in desire of their wards' education. Some others are sending their wards from nearby areas, and hardly anyone in the area remains away from this school now.
Padder first conducted a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of the institution, community, and available resources in consultation with staff. He said, we observed that the highest level of reform measures are needed in order to maintain institutional processes.
“We met with members of the community, held discussions in meetings of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), used the mother-teacher Association (MTA), Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) representatives, etc.,” he said, adding they also holdawareness programs, community mobilization programs, back to school campaigns.
“Our staff members would go door to door to sensitize and motivate the community for reformation in the education sector, the awareness rallies and routine home visits were part of the mission,” he said.
Teachers contributed wholeheartedly to the “Teachers’ Donation Fund”, a fund created by them to cover expenses related to institutional improvement.
New facelift of the school
The contributed fund was used to facelift the school building and arrange the good furniture, fixtures for classrooms, and matting. In addition, clouring and decoration of the interior and exterior of classrooms, boundary wall, washrooms, and kitchen shed. Besides, repairment and maintenance of toilet facility, drinking water facility, separate girls toilet, maintenance of lawns etc. were also done.
The ground of the school was bumpy and he took up the issue with the rural development department they helped with it and the ground and footpath stand levelled. To embellish the lawns, they tended the parks and planted some attractive plants during the planting campaign of the Department of Forests and Ecology.
Padder said, the old building which was in a dilapidated condition was turned into a beautiful conference hall by them, wherein they hold All the zonal level Programs, seminars, and trainings take place which silently empowered the students and community of the area.
A cheerful environment for students
After creating a cheerful environment to welcome students and engage their parents, a learner retention system was maintained. We provided them with all the facilities and amenities in the shape of notebooks, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, belts, sweaters, ties, scarfs etc., and were kept available all the time for all the students and the process is going on till date without any fail by virtue of Teachers Donation fund which is contributed on monthly basis.
Empowering girl students
In order to encourage and empower Girl Students a mechanism of “MEENA CABINET and MEENA MUNCH” was put in place and different portfolios were assigned to them to have a complete grip on Scholastic and Non-Scholastic areas. Supply of sanitary pads, undergarments, etc. was made available for adult girls to take good care of their health and hygiene and the process is still ongoing.
"Our mission has been a success and we will continue our work for the good. These steps in the institution have completely reformed it and students too are reformed,” he said.
The community is now motivated and enrollment of students has grown to 228 . In addition, another 50 students joined the OOSC (Out of school children) program through TALASH – II a few days ago, bringing the total number of students to 278. The process of Mission empowerment is still going on, Padder said.
The local Sarpanch Omar Chowdhary said, the school in the area has really transformed the community and we are happy with it. It is a good school in comparison to the other nearby schools.
“The efforts of these teachers and especially Gulzar sir is praiseworthy. We are lucky to have these teachers here,” he said.