By Naba Kishor Pujari
At the height of the pandemic, Dileswari Dharua, a 21-year-old intermediate college student from Balangir district hails as a Good Samaritan for her dedication in teaching the academically low performing children, and locals are all praise for her effort to bridge the learning gap among children during the lockdown.
Phuljharan is just a 10-km away from the district headquarter of Balangir where basic amenities are lacking. Not well off financially, most of the parents depend on the government primary school of the village for education of their children. However, Schools were shut down in the mid-march this year, as a measure to contain the spread of novel Coronavirus.
This prolonged school closure, detention at home and cessation of daily routine because of the COVID-19 pandemic have had an impact on children’s mental well-being for school children, and the so-called online education process was discriminatory to poor and marginalized students as majority of them lack a digital device to access it. That prompted Dileswari to do something for the children to bring them back to the fore of learning.
“I realised that children are gradually detaching from their learning due to school shut-down. One day, Lok Unnati Sangathan, a people’s collective of Balangir was holding a meeting in our village where members were discussing to start remedial classes for academically low-performing children. It was then I thought that kids can keep learning even during a lockdown and then became a part of their initiative”, says Dileswari.
The remedial classes, an initiative by Atmashakti Trust and its allies Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha and Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha under the campaign Mission3-5-8, are being run in 36 villages across the district by the Sangathan where nine members from the organization along with 27 local youth volunteers are taking up remedial classes for 216 children every day.
“I feel, Dileswari says, education cannot wait! The Sangathan’s effort was timely and praiseworthy. Because, they feel that if these children are left behind at this crucial period, many of them may not come back to schools when they re-open”.
Dileswari lost her father in 2018 and now she has to shoulder the burden of her family with a mother and two brothers. However, she stood firm with her conviction to help poor children pursue their studies as she believes the importance of education very deftly and therefore devoting two-hours of remedial teaching every day for children upto class-V in her village.
“Remedial classes are proving to be useful for these children as they are learning vital subjects on English, basic mathematics and Odia language and improving on their learning. We are happy that Dileswari keeps our children learning during the pandemic period when government teachers should do that job and appreciate her effort as she ensures that children are not losing out on their education”, says Mr Chamar Biswal, parent of a child who attends Dileswari’s remedial classes.
Naba Kishor Pujari is a Bhubaneswar based development professional and freelance journalist.