By Manmohan Singh Bambrah
Earlier this week, my team and I, put together an “Every Child in School” Campaign, an important objective of Apeejay Tea, at our estate. In my 21 years of working in tea industry, I have often seen social mobility as an impact of education and I have also seen the lack of awareness in many communities on the need for education. Thus, I have always been personally committed to the fact that the provisions under Right to Education Act be used by all families residing in the gardens as this is the immediate community who I can influence as a garden manager. At Apeejay Tea, all-round development of children of our communities is an important goal and it is for this reason we have a dedicated calendar for various activities at the schools in the gardens, as well as, at the community level such as health & hygiene, child protection & nutrition etc. Getting every child in school is one of our key targets. While the message of “Every Child in School” is self-explanatory, its actual achievement is quite difficult. Success involves taking a multipronged approach of community outreach, counselling, motivation and ability of the schools to keep the children in school.
There are 4 schools in Budlabeta comprising a total of 794 children from Class I to V. On 22nd May 2018, 150 children from Apeejay LP School got together and weaved their way across No. 12 Side of Bokpara Division covering Ranchi Line, No.13 Line, Pucca line and No.12 Line of the Budlabeta estate. The message from children asking everyone they came across, during the procession, to send their children to school was poignant. The plan was to have a sit down meeting thereafter with external invitees. Cluster Resource Centre coordinator of Bordubi Cluster, Mr. Prasanta Moran, as our special guest of the day. While appreciating Budlabeta Management for organizing this value based Programme he shared various Government schemes and spoke about forthcoming Gunotsav and provided tips on how to prepare for the same.
This was an important feedback for us. At Gunotsav 2017, our four schools got the following grades: East Side LP School – A , West Side LP School – B, Apeejay LP School – B and Bokpara LP School – B. For those who don’t know, Gunotsav is a quality enhancement initiative of the State for bringing about improvement in learning levels of students at Elementary level. It aims to evaluate schools and students of schools in order to assess their performance and design strategies to bring about quality improvement in levels of learning as well as in the school environment. Assessment is done on four core areas, viz Academic achievement of children of Class II to VIII, Co-scholastic activities, Availability and Utilization of School Infrastructure and other facilities and Community Participation. External Evaluators spend one full day in the school from Morning Assembly till completion of school evaluation. They score schools on: Scholastic (60%), Co-scholastic areas (20%), availability and utilization of infrastructure and other facilities (10%), community participation (10%). Assessment of all children is done in respect of Skills viz. Reading, Writing and Numeracy while the higher classes is also done on subject areas. The exercise indicates the gaps in learning levels of students of classes-II to VIII. The teachers based on this assessment will provide appropriate intervention to improve learning levels of students. A special coaching package will be designed for remedial teaching by the teachers in the school itself.
We are determined to work much harder and achieve better grades in Gunotsav 2018 for all our four schools. At the meeting I tried to impress upon Anganwadi workers to bring children to school, to help garden management reduce drop outs to zero and to ensure that there is not a single child in Budlabeta who has never enrolled in school. We had also invited many representatives from Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA) – UNICEF (WASH) project and they all emphasized on the importance of Every Child in School. Mr. Jagdish Keot, Block Coordinator, ABITA – UNICEF (WASH) project, connected this campaign with child protection and Health & Hygiene. Ms Alphi Lahan, Circle Coordinator, ABITA-UNICEF (Child Protection and Nutrition) who was accompanied by Parinita Pradhan, Community Mobilizer (Child Protection and Nutrition), said that these kind of awareness programmes are very effective in connecting with the masses.
I was happy to see that all the Anganwadi Workers, Crèche attendant, Teachers, Line Chowkidars and Garden Union Officials who joined the programme resolve that they will leave no stone unturned in executing the purpose of the campaign. I have been recently posted in Budlabeta in March this year and this is my goal too. As a next step, we will be conducting periodic feedback meetings with the teachers, Anganwadi workers, line chowkiders and all concerned to identify the number of children not enrolled in school as well as number of drop-outs at our estate and ensure that these children are brought back to schools.
It is this unrelenting focus on children that will bring about change and ensure a continual improvement in bringing every child to school. I am hoping that we will be able to make that change.
Manmohan Singh Bambrah is in-charge of Budlabeta Tea Estate, Apeejay Tea Limited