Mumbai

Village women turn teachers to reopen ZP school

Villagers say school on Navi Mumbai airport site was closed down by CIDCO to force residents to vacate

On November 19 last year, the Zilla Parishad school in Ulwe village, situated on the site of the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport, was shut down. The City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) asked the residents of 10 villages, occupying 45 hectares of the airport’s 1,160-hectare project area, to vacate and demolish their 2,786 houses before January 15 and send their children to the new school at Sector 24 in Ulwe.

Soon, most villagers opted for the CIDCO’s resettlement scheme and left. The number of students in the Zilla Parishad school dropped from 375 to 155. However, a few residents of Ganeshpuri, Targhar, Ulwe and Kombadbhuje villages resisted. They pleaded with the CIDCO and the Zilla Parishad to keep the school open till the end of the academic year, but the plea fell on deaf ears.

Two women, Sumidha Madhavi and Trupti Mhatre, whose children had been missing school since last Deepavali, could no longer bear to see them cry. They decided to take responsibility for their children’s education and met the committee members of the four villages. They mobilised five educated women — two postgraduates and three graduates — to teach the children.

Joy of learning: Students attend classes at a Zilla Parishad school which was reopened by villagers.

Joy of learning: Students attend classes at a Zilla Parishad school which was reopened by villagers.  

Not backing down

Kirti Madhavi, an engineering graduate and resident of Ulwe village, said, “Sumidha and Trupti said we couldn’t let our children suffer just because the government refuses to do anything. Both of them had cleared Class X and wanted to teach the kids. Then five more women pitched in and we have been teaching students from Classes I to VII for the past one month. We have finished with the Semester I portion and are giving them tests.”

Prashant Bhoir, president of the village committee, said, “Children from all four villages are now attending the school and the village women have become their teachers. Shutting the school was just a tactic used by the government to force us to vacate our homes.”

Joy of learning: Students attend classes at a Zilla Parishad school which was reopened by villagers.

Joy of learning: Students attend classes at a Zilla Parishad school which was reopened by villagers.  

Ms. Madhavi said, “We all are former students of the same school and it was heartbreaking to see our children suffering. The actual teachers of the school are now teaching at CIDCO’s new school, which is very far for us. We had requested them to come and teach our students, but they have been warned by CIDCO that they won’t receive their salary if they do so. They even refused to come and teach the kids on holidays.”

Ms. Madhavi said the government had also stopped providing raw material for preparing the mid-day meal. She said, “Fortunately, the woman who cooked the mid-day meals is from our village and her children study here too. She came forward to cook for the children. The committee is helping us buy the raw materials.”

Pundalik Mhatre, a resident of Ulwe village, said, “The new CIDCO school has no water, benches, playground and is in an isolated place. It is not safe to send our kids there.” An officer from CIDCO said, “We are providing water in the school through tankers. Villagers can bring furniture from the old school or we will provide aid to purchase new ones. We do not want children to suffer and are asking the villagers to send their kids to the new school.”

Joy of learning: Students attend classes at a Zilla Parishad school which was reopened by villagers.

Joy of learning: Students attend classes at a Zilla Parishad school which was reopened by villagers.  

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:05:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/village-women-turn-teachers-to-reopen-zp-school/article26039465.ece

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