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How A Small Village In Maharashtra Helped Children Continue Their Studies During The Pandemic

They say the virus doesn’t discriminate, apparently it does. It has hit the poor hardest. The pandemic has shut down cities and forced migrant workers and students from rural areas to return to their villages. As such, many villages in India are now forced to grapple with the realities of unemployment along with that of the dangers of the second wave. Whereas unemployment may take many months to cease, a small village in Maharashtra is setting an example as to how education during a lockdown can be continued through innovation and planning.

Children being taught at makeshift schools in the village

The name of the village is ‘Son’ which is located in the tribal district of Nandurbar, Maharashtra. In this village, two brothers Vinod Pawara and Sanjay Pawara, began to worry about the future of the children as soon as schools and colleges shut down in 2020. There was no Internet and necessary infrastructure to carry on with online education, meaning that the lockdown became an indefinite holiday for the students. They realized that if this lockdown stretched for too long, many children would drop out of the school and fall into a vicious cycle of poverty. The duo decided to do something about it. They took the village people in confidence, sought their coöperation and started taking classes for students from primary to undergraduate level. While teaching they saw to it that everyone strictly followed Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. They named this initiative of theirs as ‘Satpura Gramgyan Kendra’ (SGK).

“Nobody should be deprived of education for the want of the internet. We at SGK, focus more on foundational skills and peer learning. We help senior students prepare for competitive exams. We also teach them the importance of Adivasi culture and values because we believe that owning your identity makes you confident about yourself, it makes you socially conscious” says Vinod who started this initiative.

An NGO ‘Vichardhara Foundation’ distributing study materials to students of SGK

Other than teaching, the brothers also sensitize villagers about the novel coronavirus with the help of doctors from a nearby Public Health Centre. Girls from the village pursuing education in pharmacy have chipped in to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene and use of sanitary napkins. As the number of students grew over the months, more youth volunteered to take the movement forward. Today, there are a total of 12 volunteers teaching 90 students in three shifts. Impressed with their efforts, concerned citizens contributed to SGK by supplying them with books and other learning resources. Soon, word spread, and the SGK model was replicated by youths from other villages. Local newspapers have also covered this inspiring story of ‘Satpura Gramgyan Kendra’.

Students writing tests under the supervision of Sanjay Pawara

Due to its success in improving the education of children, the tribal village ’Son’ has emerged as a model of education amid the pandemic. “We hope to play a supplementary role to present a system of education in rural areas where coaching institutes are neither available nor affordable to our children”, says Sanjay who holds a diploma in teacher education. It is heartening to see both Vinod and Sanjay on a mission to bridge the gap between urban and rural education which has only increased during the pandemic.

Educating students about importance of Constitution on Constitution Day

Currently, SGK had to suspend its activities in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19, but they’re hopeful to resume their work soon. While the spread of the virus has crippled the whole world, ideas like ‘Satpura Gramgyan Kendra’ must be spread. Spreading new ideas about the way the world could be different is a huge job for all of us, more so because of the pandemic.

About the author: Tushar Chavhan is a proud Adivasi who likes to read philosophy. He is a former engineer who is now an aspiring civil servant. He hails from Nandurbar district in Maharashtra.


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