Teacher’s Day came a tad late for fifty-five-year-old Bhagirath Singh Mahicha, but when it did this Sunday, it was overwhelming.
With his modest school headmaster’s job, Mahicha could not even afford to buy a cycle all his life. On Sunday when his former students and villagers in Dhandhan in Sikar district, where Mahicha is the principal of the government senior secondary school, handed him the keys to a white Alto car, he was dizzy with joy.
Mahicha is a regular school teacher, who rose the ranks from a Grade III faculty to principalship, over a period of 20 years, amidst routine transfers and sundry odds of neglected government schools. But he chose to make a difference. In 1984, he joined Dhandhan government secondary school as a Grade III faculty and taught History and Geography until 1993 when he was promoted to the post of headmaster. In 1997 when the school was converted into a senior secondary rank effecting a principal’s post, he was transferred to a nearby secondary school in Jandwa (Churu). In 2000 that school too was upgraded to a senior secondary and Mahicha was again on his way out, this time to nearby Mainasara village in Churu.
In 2004, Mahicha was drawn in as elementary education officer in Fatehpur Sikar Block. It was in 2009 that Mahicha returned to Dhandhan yet again, this time promoted to the post of a principal. It was a homecoming of sorts. “This is where I had started my career as a teacher with as many as 225 students then in 1984. When I returned in 2009, the number had increased to 442 but the number of teachers and the facilities remained the same,” Mahicha told the Indian Express.
Mahicha refused to stick to the school working hours. “It was not possible for such few teachers to give adequate attention to all the students in the regular school hours. So we worked out special summer classes during the summer vacations and also extra classes late into the night. I must say that the teachers did not grudge the additional work nor did the students,” Mahicha said.
While only the weaker students were drawn in for the extra classes initially, the brighter lot voluntarily joined them. “The results are for all to see,” beams Mahicha. “The pass percentage in the school has risen remarkably. This year in Science the pass percentage was 98.70 percent while in Arts it was 96 percent. It has remained above 90 percent over the past five years, showing a steady rise. The overall quality of performance too has improved as the number of students securing first division marks has increased,” he added.
At a time when the state’s pass percentage in science is 80 percent and arts is around 75 percent, Mahicha’s school has come up as an island of quality education. The school now has students not only from Dhandhan village but also neighbouring districts such as Churu, Jhunjhunu and Nagaur. Local Sarpanch Jagdish Prasad Sharma said, “Students and parents from neighbouring districts have heard about the school’s performance and outstanding academic environment and have come in large numbers to enroll. Locals run a trust, Dhandhan Development Trust Shakti Mandir, that actively supports the school principal’s initiatives.
In an effort to provide better facilities, the school is provided free water supply and the electricity bills are also paid by the Trust. Who would support such an industrious principal?”
Sharma added that the school also runs a hostel with 30 rooms housing 160 students who have come from neighbouring districts.
“Students from this school have gone on to do well in their lives. Some are pursuing engineering, medicine, studying in bigger cities and even abroad. The principal has worked selflessly for years here and never asked for anything for himself. So we called a meeting of the village elders and decided to gift him something. Two teachers volunteered to collect the donations from villagers. No villager was forced to contribute but when at the end we counted the total amount it stood at Rs. 6.50 lakhs,” said Sharma. “We decided to buy a brand new car for the principal and also foot the fuel and maintenance bills for the next three years. The meritorious students of the school were also rewarded with silver medals weighing 40 gms each. The villagers are so inspired that one of them even volunteered to bear the expenses for the awards given to meritorious students next year already.”
Even as Mahicha is overwhelmed with all the support, he grapples with a skewed teacher-student ratio. “It must be noted that while the number of students have risen from 442 in 2009 to 1166 now, the number of teachers have remained the same. I think the government should sanction more posts here.”
Meanwhile Mahicha’s Alto, that flaunts a sticker on its rear windshield announcing it as a gift from ‘All villagers and former students’, has no driver. “I do not know how to drive. So for now my students are driving me around and even refuelling it. This is overwhelming,” he smiles.