Our series "Teacher Warriors" honours some of the country’s best and bravest teacher warriors, striving to give kids a fighting chance at a better present and a future floating with possibilities. In the concluding episode of our series, Parvathy Jayakrishnan interviews and profiles an extraordinary educator from Assam working with tribal children - Uttam Teron:
Parjiat means “heavenly flower” in Assamese. That’s exactly how Uttam Teron wants his students to bloom and grow when they come to learn at Parijat Academy.
Bringing a change in the Pamohi area in Assam’s Guwahati is Parijat Academy, a free school started by Uttam with a vision to educate children so that they will be able to pursue a better livelihood. His school has been the prime reason for social upliftment in the area and Uttam Teron wants to see to it that children not just realise the importance of education but also enjoy going to school.
What inspired you to start Parijat Academy and how did it all begin?
We are in a tribal village and I realised that children were not interested in going to school. I wanted to make them realise the importance of education. In 2003, I spent Rs.800 for a tin roof, bamboo walls, a bench, desk and a blackboard to start teaching children in my village. We started with four children and today I can proudly say that we have 512 children attending our classes from kindergarten to the 10th grade.
Do you think the government is doing enough to educate children in India?
The government is indeed doing a lot for educating children. There are government schools in our villages but I realise that children do not enjoy studying there. We, at Parijat Academy, believe in “joyful learning”. Children should love going to school. Children love coming to our school because we include music, trekking and rock climbing, and football apart from imparting bookish knowledge to them. We also give them computer education.
What have your students been doing after finishing their studies at Parijat Academy?
Some of them are graduates; some are even doing their post-graduation. We are motivating children to study and take up jobs. We even provide skill training so that they can do well in a setting outside of their village.
How involved are you in the day-to-day activities of your school?
I am there with my children everyday starting from the morning assembly. I take classes too. My students and I clean up the classrooms every day at the end of the day.
What challenges do you face in running Parijat Academy?
People have an option to sponsor our children. So some of our students are sponsored; we try getting donations for the rest. Funding is our biggest problem. Motivating and convincing people, is tough. When they come and see what we are doing at Parijat, they feel more motivated to donate money. Sometimes we struggle to pay our 25 teachers their salary. In 2011, I received a CNN IBN Real Heroes award which came with a gift cheque of Rs.5 lakh. I distributed that money among the teachers. We collect second-hand clothes from Guwahati, which we distribute among our children. With better funding, I can do more for the children.
This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue as a part of our cover story on Teacher Warriors. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month.
Images courtesy - Uttam Teron, Parijat Academy
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