When it was launched in 2003, ‘School Chale Hum’, the theme song of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) — country’s flagship programme for elementary education — became an anthem for children. The song that people watched on television, mostly on Doordarshan, played a significant role in boosting enrolment in schools across the country, according to the ministry of human resource development.
On similar lines, the Punjab education department, in a major PR and image-building and makeover exercise for its government schools, has come up with a video theme song in Punjabi, for the state’s learning enhancement programme — Padho Punjab, Padhao Punjab — with a tagline ‘Jey padhaange, taan vadhaange’ (only education makes you grow). The project was mentioned in the Congress manifesto and was started soon after the party came to power in 2017.
The department of information and public relations (DIPR) hired Reliant Advertisers, a private advertising agency, to produce the video that was shot in several government schools across Punjab. The four-minute song was sung by Manpreet Singh, a Punjabi singer from Longowal, written by Harman Jeet Singh, a government school teacher from Mansa, and directed by Harp Farmer, an ace Punjabi director and actor.
A 30-second teaser of the project was released recently on social media by the department of education. The teaser shows singer Manpreet singing, playing a guitar, and students in government schools studying in well-furnished classrooms and well-equipped laboratories.
The song goes, “Padhdey jao, likhde jao…. nawiyaan gallan sikhdey jao; Mushkil moorey add jaana hai, sooraj banke chadd jaana hai…Modeyaan de vich paa lo bastey, Hath vich kalman fado Punjab.. Padho Punjab, Padho Punjab.. Paudi Paudi Chadho Punjab… (Come let’s learn, let’s learn new things… Let no hurdle stop us from coming to school, we have to shine like a sun…With bags on your shoulders and pencils in hands… Come on Punjab, let’s learn… Let’s climb the ladder step by step…).”
Senu Duggal, additional director, department of information and PR, said the theme song was made on a proposal by the education department. “The work was given to one of our agencies who has done production work. The budget is as per DAVP fixed rates, which is around Rs 6.50 lakh for a 4-minute video. However, it is the education department that will release funds for it. We have only helped them in execution. The song is ready and now the education department will decide how to publicise it — whether through TV channels, radio or social media.”
Rajinder Singh, spokesperson of education department, said the move was aimed at promoting Punjabi language and increasing enrollment in government schools. “A teacher in our department has written the song. Our children are a part of the shoot. We will release the full song in the coming week. It will be popularised through social media and others,” he said.
Mandeep Singh Narike, an employee of the education department who was a coordinator for the project, said, “When we started with the project a few months ago, the motive was to come up with a song which is liked by children and everyone else. Harp Farmer was roped in to bring that modern and youthful approach.”
Harp Farmer said that it was a unique experience to shoot with children. “You learn something new when you deal with children,” he said. Lyricist Harman Jeet Singh, a teacher at government primary school at village Kot Lallu of Mansa, said, “I am an author and writer too. I was requested by department officials to write a song.”
The education department claims that in the past one year, at least 2,500 government schools in Punjab became ‘self made smart schools’ with colorful buildings, learning aids and other facilities that teachers managed on their own with community participation and help from NRIs.
A teacher said on condition of anonymity, “The song ‘School Chale Hum’ was so popular that we remember its lyrics even today. Punjab having its own song is a good idea but it should not remain as a mere PR and image building exercise. Equal focus should be laid on improving quality of education.”