A school where children don’t want to go home
We often give up on public sector and public school as some thing about which little can be done. Just as in higher education, best educational institutions are in public sector( IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, and so on) can the same not happen in primary education. I had earlier written about the experience of Ajit Kumar and Mamta ben in Vallabhipur where no teacher ever came late to school. This time we will meet another teacher in Valia who has created such benchmarks which even the best private school will feel shy in competing with in term of quality and content richness, pedagogy and process of linking learning, loving and living. If only the state government decides to make this is the minimum ( not maximum) standard of education at primary level, the state could boast of one of the best universal primary education system in the country. But we still have to go along way, The primary education of high quality in municipal and government school has not become a subject on which leaders will lose sleep yet. One day it will be.
Let us meet Kamlesh Kumar Kosamiya from whom my colleagues Chetan and Hema learned a great deal about how excellence is achieved in public systems. Kamlesh is much traveled person, and also is resourceful but so are many others. He has been elected unopposed as head of local cooperatives (but that again may not be unique. He studied various ways in which students can be taught not just the formal subjects but also about nature and social responsibility, and a spirit of sharing one’s knowledge with others. In eight years, he has transformed the school. Almost every wall, floor and step in the school is a learning lab. He read about a teacher growing a wide variety of trees in Loksarvani. He went to him to learn and replicate the model. Today, he has more than 120 species with their uses in the schoolcompound. One doesn’t learn without sharing. Children take projector to neighbouring villages and show programmes of general interest.
A great deal is said about nutrition. Moringa, i.e., drumstick, leaves and pods are well known sources of vitamins so essential for children’s growth. He mixes the leaves in the mid day meal everyday. A lesson so easy to replicate and yet it doesn’t . Is it because it doesn’t cost much? One of the challenges after planting moringa trees was the fear of theft. He distributed the seedlings in the neighbourhood so that there will be no reason for people to steal in the trees from theschool compound. When he saw tiles in another school with alphabets, geometrical forms and other shapes, he asked the local manufacturers to make them but couldn’t get easily. Finally, he located a manufacturer who agreed to give him such tiles. If every school ordered some of these, the suppliers will increase and the cost will come down. The department of education organizes training programmes in which different teachers have to go on duty leaving their classes. He hired two teachers from his own salary who fill in for those who are away on training. Contrast this with the practice that we have seen in some places where teachers hire temporary teachers and don’t go to school at all.
Children do not often get a chance to see the historical artifacts which are no more in use. He has built a small museum of floor grinding mill of stone, bullock cart, churner, traditional huts, etc. Every child is greeted on his/her birthday. The children of his school got to participate at state level competition in Wanche, Gujarat.
When teachers like Kamleshbhai go out of the way to make their school so interesting and engrossing, it is not surprising that children don’t want to go to home. Isn’t that the ultimate test of how good the learning environment can be. Why do we then get satisfied with much less in much larger number of schools. This is a question that top level policy makers and educational leaders must ask themselves. Ultimately, the society suffers because of expectation deficit. In an age of rising aspirations, reducing expectations from teachers can only lead a society to a downward spiral. I hope we can avoid it.
Anil K Gupta