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Amidst school closure MGNREGA worker, back from Mumbai, teaches Odisha rural kids

By Our Representative

At a time when online education remains a dream for school students in rural areas due to lack of digital resources, a migrant returnee of Uparpita village of Khariar block in Nuapada district has stepped up to teach low performing children in his village during the school closure, an effort that is lauded by parents and communities in his locality.
Khageswar, who works as a MGNREGA worker after he returned from Mumbai during the lockdown, has been teaching a batch of six students in the morning and evening to every day since August 15. As the school building cannot be used for teaching and there is no other public space available to teach them, Khageswar is using his own house for this purpose where physical distancing and other precautionary measures are being observed.
Khageswar’s venture into this noble work has a close connection to his childhood. He was dreaming to study higher to bring his family out of poverty one day, but he had to seal his fate in the midst to help feed his family. The financial crisis in his family forced him to migrate to Mumbai, where he began working as a construction worker.
Though initially Khageswar, on returning from Mumbai, had to struggle hard to get a job in his locality, he got work under MGNREGA. Asking on what inspired him to teach children, Khageswar says, “Most of the time, these children were roaming here and there in the village, getting almost disconnected from learning. Meanwhile, I learned that Shramajeebee Bikash Sangathan is conducting remedial classes for low performing children across the district by engaging local youths to teach them. I decided to volunteer myself for the initiative and started teaching them”.
Even though Khageswar had to seal his fate of higher studies to look after his family and had to migrate for job, he acknowledges the importance of education in a child’s life. He says, he does not want these children should go through the same patches that he had to go.
Khageswar feels that school closure during Covid-19 has disproportionately hit these children, who already bear the barriers in accessing education or are at higher risk of exclusion, another reason why he started teaching these children.
“I realised that Covid-19 crisis has meant little or no education for many children who cannot afford the cost of internet or digital device to access education and this may induce them to fall behind their peers in learning. Therefore, the remedial class was the need for these low performing students” Khageswar adds.
The state government’s online education has remained out of reach for majority of children who do not have access to digital resources
The state government’s online education has remained out of reach for a majority of them who do not have access to digital resources such as a smartphone, computer and or TV. Poor tele density and internet connectivity were other concerns in his village that prompted Khageswar to help children to continue their studies.
He often finds it difficult to teach children above class-V. But his objective is to help them remain connected to books. His teaching is not only helping children to learn but is also encouraging local youth to take remedial classes for children in these tough times.
Saroj Kumar Suna of Shramajeebee Bikash Sangathan, Nuapada, says, “We have launched a mission3-5-8 campaign under which we have urged the state government to start remedial classes for these slow learning students so that they will catch up with their peers by the time their school re-opens but not much has been done in this regard.”
However, he regrets, “The state government’s Shiksha Samparka scheme has also not yet been implemented. So, our roles for these children doubled. However, we could not have done it alone. Local youth like Khageswar have come forward and helped children of their villages to teach in these crucial times voluntarily. Their commitment and dedication for society are inspiring others to be good samaritans”.
Shramajeebee Bikash Mancha is running 38 remedial education centres across Nuapada district in rural and mostly inaccessible areas. In all 10 migrant labourers and 28 youth volunteers are teaching more than 228 children free of cost, an effort that is inspiring many youth across the district to give back to society in whichever way possible.

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