They spend a part of their salary to beautify the school premises, come up with novel teaching ideas, try and make the ambiance education-friendly and, above all, ensure the holistic development of their students whose numbers have quadrupled from 20 to 79. Meet Pratap Mahato, the headmaster, and Rupali Mahato, the only assistant teacher, of a “unique” primary school in West Bengal’s Purulia district.
“Since I joined the school in 2014, I endeavoured to make it unique to attract students and give them all-round development. For this, I and the assistant teacher have been spending Rs 4,000 from our salary every month,” said Pratap Mahato, the headmaster of Gundlubari Primary School in Hura block. Once you step inside the attractively clean school premises laced with greenery, beautiful flowers and wall graffiti, you come across little personalities like ‘Prime Minister’, ‘Health Minister’ and so on!
“As per Right to Education Act, schools must form a child cabinet. Other schools make it, but it’s mostly on pen and paper. I selected students as ‘Ministers’ to include them in our activities and make them responsible,” Mahato told IANS. Taking his duty seriously, Pratik Mahato, 9, a student who assists the ‘Health Minister’, said: “We see to it that every student washes their hands properly before eating. We take care of the garden with medicinal plants.” Pratik said neem can help fight germs and aloe vera is good for the skin.
The headmaster recalled that when he joined the school, the infrastructure was not up to the mark and hardly 20 students used to turn up. He held meetings with the villagers and motivated the children to come to school. Now, the student strength has gone up to 79. “Most of the families are poor daily wage-earners. Previously they stayed away for six months in search of jobs taking their children along. Now they leave their children with other family members because they see a future for their children and themselves in a better school environment. Hence there are hardly any dropouts here,” he added.
The library is stocked with books and handmade crafts made by the students from reused material. The healthy mid-day meal kitchen employs cooks from self-help groups (SHGs)who are never seen without masks and aprons. The meditation room is a big draw among pupils. These features make the school stand out.
“To make the wash basin student-friendly I suggested the taps be placed at various heights,” said Mahato, whose mind seems to be brimming with new ideas. The walls are painted with picture stories, quotes and the like. One of the two class rooms has a projector. One corner of the school premise has a tank that is used for rain-water harvesting.
Talking about other activities, Rupali Mahato, the assistant teacher said: “Through our own initiative, we have arranged for extra classes like dancing, drawing, singing and gardening. All the extra expenditure is borne out of the fund that both of us contribute every month.” “I am thankful to our BDO for helping us with a computer, an LPG gas connection, fire extinguisher and for always supporting us. The teachers and students take care of the garden and all the things. If there is any other work the villagers have also helped us,” the headmaster said.