Rohini Lokhande has been a Zilla Parishad (ZP) school teacher at Nandor in Maharashtra for over three years. She brought the children of the nearby sugarcane field workers to the school soon after she began teaching at ZP. Even today when the world is facing a pandemic and the education field is suffering gravely, Lokhande is keeping strong and trying to keep the learning going for these children.
When she initially joined the school she realised there were sugarcane fields nearby that had makeshift houses for the workers who would migrate there. The children of these workers would also work in the fields with their parents. Being a teacher, she could not imagine a child ‘out of school’ and not being able to study. She held surveys with help of her ZP school students and had these kids admitted to the school. They used education guarantee card to make sure there was no hindrance in the enrolling process due to lack of appropriate papers.
The worker families would usually leave the area during monsoons, but some started staying back to ensure their children’s education. However, last year when the pandemic hit and the world went under lockdown so did the ZP school. Lokhande told TOI, “The lockdown meant that many of the students, who had enrolled at the school, could not be reached. Teachers were also put on Covid-19 duty and we had to teach regular classes online. Although, I did get help from volunteers to go and teach them whenever they can, it was not enough. Then I realised that most of the children were also made to work due to the severe money crunch faced by their families. All of this meant, education was the least of their priorities. That is when I thought of conducting the classes for the students at night.”
She approached a local volunteer, who is a postgraduate herself, to teach the night classes for these students. Lokhande paid this teacher out of her pocket and also made sure the children would have books and study material. The volunteer teacher would teach some 20 odd kids from 7-9 pm every night using workbooks in Marathi and Math books. She would also teach them about basic personal hygiene, cleanliness and discipline.
They procured some gadgets as well so the learning would not stop dead in the track if a lockdown is to happen again. She said, “From teachers in my school to people outside, I have found help everywhere. Even now, when I wanted mobile phones for the children of sugarcane cutters, a Kothrud-based housing society donated five phones. The 20 children can be divided into groups of four, to use one phone and study. People can do wonders.”
*The image is for representation purpose only.
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