When the brand new government school was inaugurated in a village of Uttar Pradesh, the residents were torn between being happy and sad. While the school was the result of a community’s collective efforts, the reason for their motivation was the tragic death of two young girls from the village.
In 2010 a boat carrying seventeen children capsized, resulting in the death of two girls. For those children, the boat ride had become a usual route from their houses in Khullaspur to their school four kilometres away in Bhitridih, Uttar Pradesh. That day, the residents of Khullaspur decided that they would no longer send their children to school until a building was constructed in their own neighbourhood. Though the parents wanted an education for the children, their primary concern was their safety.
In India, 47 million adolescents have not progressed to upper secondary school, the highest in the world. While there are several reasons behind such a high dropout rate, access to a school nearby remains a primary concern for a large number of them, especially in rural and backward areas.
Gayatri Devi, a Video Volunteers’ Community Correspondent in Uttar Pradesh, decided to use community media to motivate the community. “I myself had to fight hard for my education, and I didn’t want these kids to face the same challenges. Though I knew I wanted to help them get a school in their village, I didn’t realise what hard work it would be,” says Gayatri.
Gayatri made an initial video report on the situation in 2013 and then organised a community meeting with the village head (“Sarpanch”) and the officers from the Block Development Office. Together with the community, she then approached the Block Education Officer of the district, who told them the project was stalled because a proper survey needed to be done, and land allocated for a school in the village. Upon the insistence of the community, these two tasks were completed by the local government.
More than a year after Gayatri’s intervention, the school was finally built with a budget of INR 6.5 Lakhs (approximately $10,000). Today, three teachers serve the needs of eighty students, and parents breathe easy, when their children leave for school, knowing they only have a small distance to travel.
Gayatri had succeeded in rallying the community. Her video documentation of the issue helped motivate the residents and the village head to approach the problem through the right legal approach and to find a solution.
Article by Sangeeta Rane
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