The pandemic was a testing time that turned around many lives, particularly that of school children. Unable to attend classes physically and stuck between four walls of their homes, many children were being pushed off the edge with physical and mental concerns. At such a time, teachers and families played a crucial role in reversing the negative impact of the pandemic and having kids try their hand at different activities.
One such notable attempt by a teacher based in Hyderabad has inspired many academics and students across India and abroad. With children spending a lot of time glued to screens, this teacher tried to bring back students' interest in books and the world of stories. As a result, he not only lifted the student's learning curves but also gave birth to many child authors.
Authors In The Making
Bhaithi Durgaiah (46), a native of Ramunipatla village of Telangana state, has been working at the ZPHS Jakkapur school for the past eight years as a Hindi teacher. A writer by hobby, he tried to impart the skill and interest of writing to his students in classes six to ten. Encouraging them to tell their stories in the regional language of Telugu, he also brought in respect for the language of their home. This was viewed as a rather unusual act, as many teachers would look to better the student's skills in the language they teach rather than another. Durgaiah, however, gave equal importance to making the students well-versed in Hindi as well as Telugu.
This simple activity, which he initiated in 2018, gained momentum and drew an audience during the pandemic. Initially selected six stories written by the children were published by Bala Sahitya Parishad in a book titled "Teeyani Palakarimpu." By March 2019, the students curated about 30 stories and published them under the title "Jakkapur Badi Pillala Kathalu." Four months later, a second edition of the same was released successfully. The books were received with positive responses, and over 1,500 copies were sold. With the village Mandal Education Officers' support, the books were distributed to about 50-60 schools in the district, for other children to read, learn, and get inspired.
By 2020, amidst the pandemic, Durgaiah managed to keep the children's enthusiasm for words intact and had them venture into poetry and other artistic spaces. A report by the New Indian Express quoted Durgaiah saying, "This is an activity of inculcating and showcasing the creativity among the children. Instead of wasting their time watching TV and spending time on social media, children will be occupied with creative thinking through these exercises." Truly enough, more children from the school began contributing their works, and multiple books and anthologies, such as 'Madhura Padmalu' and 'Jakkapur Jakkannalu,' came about for readers and art enthusiasts. Over thousands of copies of the children's creative works sold in no time, and the regional newspapers and monthly magazines picked up 50 stories and 60 poems written by them.
Taking Stories From Telangana To USA
Gradually, Durgaiah helped the students venture into different forms of creativity. Students began contributing sketches and stories for children's comics, reviewed a book titled "Rasma Sakkani Gaalipatam" from a Telugu daily vernacular and contributed to multiple other forums. Durgaiah was of the opinion that every activity that students indulged in impacted their academics in one way or the other. The drawings they enthusiastically engaged in turned out useful in subjects of science and geometry, and their story-writing capacity translated into good marks in the language subjects.
Several literary and academic organisations encouraged the Jakkapur children through recognition and cash awards. They were also awarded prizes at district-level contests. Impressed by the student's talents, many villagers and non-residential Indians (NRIs) pitched in funds to publish the books and take them to a larger group of audience. Today the teacher's simple activity has taken the words of many students all the way to Telugu communities residing in the United States of America (USA).
Meanwhile, Durgaiah continues to take his students through interesting and innovative ideas that help them develop their skills and find their interests. Currently, he has been planning to facilitate interviews for the children with district administrators, imminent personalities and politicians and write them down for newspapers and their books. The teacher himself has written multiple such books with essays on rural life, films, festivals, and a lot more. For his work, he has also received district-level awards for the Best Teacher and a Mandal-level award.
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