Tucked among the lush green environment in the Naxalite-infested Gadchiroli district, there’s a civic school which is giving wings to its Adivasi students’ talents. Confidence and public speaking is a skill that is absent in these kids who have been dealt a weak hand by fate. With abject poverty at home, lack of awareness among parents about importance of education and to some extent language barrier made the tribal students crawl back into their shell while interacting with outsiders for years together. However, things are different now.
Principal of Jawaharlal Nehru School, run by Gadchiroli municipal council, Sudhir Gohane, decided over a decade ago that students coming to his school will undergo a transformation. The path he took 14 years ago, is now bearing fruits.
Gohane created a record last year after his school became the first one among those run by municipal councils in state to get ISO certification. “That happened in February last year and a lot of our efforts culminated in that final recognition. My biggest challenge in the early 2000s was to ensure that students came to school daily and for that I needed create an environment which will attract them,” said Gohane. He started with turning his school into something much more than concrete walls. “I decided that we should build a replica of Pratapgadh fort, spread over 400 square feet. Along with students, I got down to work and in that I started teaching them to use math formulas. Students would calculate how much sand we will need for one bucket of cement, or how much water we will need for the mixture. Also the proportions of the fort had to match and there too students played a crucial part,” said Gohane, who now jokes that fort making has turned him into a qualified building contractor. With the fort ready, students took pride in their creation which was being appreciated by everyone, and their bond with the school grew stronger.
The second challenge was to boost confidence level of students by encouraging them to pursue their interests, be it drawing, poem writing etc, and showcasing it before other students. “Public speaking is something kids shied away from. They had beautiful thoughts to share when interacting one-to-one, but took refuge in silence even before their classmates,” said Gohane. To help the students overcome the fear of public speaking, this innovative principal built an in-house radio station, christened Akashwaani Kendra. “They go into this special room and start speaking into the mic, while their voice reaches every classroom through individual speakers. They say prayers, read from textbooks, poems etc and slowly get over the fear of public speaking. Now, students actually look forward to heading into the Akashwaani Kendra and get hold of the mic,” said Gohane.
Gohane has also taken up the ‘clean school’ campaign with utmost seriousness with everyone ensuring that cleanliness is adhered to at all time. “We have proclaimed that anyone who finds garbage/litter strewn on our campus will get Rs 1,000 award,” said a confident Gohane. Till the last time we checked, that award is still unclaimed.