The teachers of a municipal school in Surat are going door-to-door, urging parents to enrol their children in the municipal schools. Starting from June 13, this was initiated to ensure free education for those children who were in private schools but were compelled to drop out due to any financial issue induced by the pandemic.
Their first campaign was on June 13, from 8 to 9.30 a.m. in Nagsennagar and Avivbhav Nagar Societies in Pandesara.
Chandrashekhar Nikam (Principal), Chandrakant Jadav, and Sanjay Sawant — who have taken this action — are the teachers of Marathi medium school No. 222 and 255, which Surat Municipal School Board runs. The school runs classes 1 through 8 in two buildings. They have a student strength of 350.
On a single campus in Nagsennagar, there are two more municipal schools. There are also four private schools in the area–of these three are English medium, and one is Marathi medium. Admissions in all the schools in the area have been low this year, owing to the pandemic. Notably, the area is mainly occupied by migrants and economically weaker sections of the society.
How are they doing it?
Addressing this, the teachers explain to the parents that their inability to pay the fees would not be a problem if they enrol their children into the municipal schools, as municipal schools provide them everything free of cost– starting from admission to school uniforms, shoes, to books. Also, a scholarship worth ₹1,100 is given to every student.
The teachers also told the parents that if they want to admit their children to English medium schools, the teachers can provide the address of the municipal English medium schools. Chandrashekhar announces all these through a microphone while his colleagues distribute pamphlets carrying the same message.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Nikam said that earlier, they would easily get 40-50 students in class 1.They even had to increase the number of classes to adjust the students. However, after the pandemic hit in 2020, that number went down to 20. This is because a lot of people has left the city due to the pandemic.
The lockdown restrictions last year prevented them from campaigning. But this year, due to the relaxation in the restrictions, they could launch this initiative.
Who ideated the initiative?
Nikam's colleague Sawant brought up the most interesting point. The campaign is solely driven by these teachers. Their administrative officer had not told them to start the campaign. All of them had one motive– to ensure that no child should be deprived of education.
"The income of many people had shrunk due to the pandemic.Hence we started a campaign for free education," said Sawant. They were so bent on their motto that they even risked their health.
Has any student enrolled?
The result? Gradually, they are getting response from the public. Within the past few days, they have reached ten new admissions in two of their schools. This clearly shows the initiative's effectiveness, especially in a state like Gujarat that has always had a low Gross Enrolment Ratio.
Vimal Desai, Surat Municipal School Board Administrative Officer, appreciated the effort made by these teachers.
Speaking about their plans, Sawant said that apart from continuing the existing drive, they will get admission to class 3rd as well. They are hopeful that they will succeed in their endeavours.