Other States

Smart papas, smarter mamas fight school dropout

Members of a mothers’ group in Goalpara district’s Hatigaon village near the border with Meghalaya taking ownership of their children’s education.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A set of questions from the child development protection officer (CDPO) in Krishnai-Balijana Circle of western Assam's Goalpara district stumped Jagdish Nath less than a year ago.

Some of the questions concerning his daughter Chayanika read: ‘Who is your child's class teacher?’ ‘Do you interact with your teacher for your child’s health?’ ‘How many times did you go to school in the last three months regarding your child’s mental and physical growth?’

At Kuruabhakha village in the same circle, Bhabani Rabha was more at ease with a similar set of questions. But she had no clue to questions such as, ‘Can you tell me a poem from the Assamese book of your child?’

Ms. Rabha, who had dropped out of high school, was among 38 out of 50 mothers who said ‘no’. This made her realise that unlike some of the illiterate mothers in the village, she needed to be involved more with the education of her two children – a son and a daughter, both in Class 10 – besides her self-help group formed under the Assam State Rural Livelihood Mission.

“I tended to agree to everything our daughter demanded and had no idea that her diet need to have rich, locally available nutrients. So, I volunteered for the Smart Papa campaign and motivated other fathers for ensuring a healthy lifestyle,” Mr. Nath said.

Mothers’ group of Khilapara-Bakharipara near an elephant corridor in Goalpara district’s Dudhnoi area participating in a short-term course for female literacy.

Mothers’ group of Khilapara-Bakharipara near an elephant corridor in Goalpara district’s Dudhnoi area participating in a short-term course for female literacy.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


All near a shop

For CDPO Nileswar Roy, Mr Nath’s shop being located strategically in the Budhipara-Dorapara area helped; most men in the surrounding villages often gathered at the spot.

“We had a target of orienting 15,000 fathers in a year when we launched the campaign in March. But the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of lockdowns came in the way although a supervisor [from Integrated Child Development Services] is assigned to call 10 fathers in a batch and conduct sessions on healthy living,” Mr Roy said.

The mothers turned out to be smarter through a similar campaign dovetailed with a female literacy drive and goalmart.co.in, an online platform provided by the Goalpara district administration for marketing their handicraft and farm produce.

“The campaign entails tagging mothers with class teachers toward decreasing school dropout and increasing community participation for a better educational environment. Another major component has been on awareness about sexual harassment of children, to differentiate good touch from bad touch,” said block elementary education officer Rita Rabha from Dudhnoi, about 110 km west of Guwahati and 30 km east of district headquarters Goalpara.

Grandmothers too pitch in

In the course of taking interest in the education of their children, some mothers – grandmothers like septuagenarian Madhubala Banikya of Dhupdhara too – have learnt to write sentences and do simple arithmetic.

“Apart from natural calamities that afflict our aspirational district, low literacy rate among the women has been a major challenge. A corps of 690 youth trained as educators undertook a three-month female literacy programme and helped make 6,895 women literate so far,” Goalpara’s Deputy Commissioner Varnali Deka, an alumna of IIT-Bombay, told The Hindu.

Literacy, officials said, had made the local mothers’ associations more confident of coordinating with teachers and keeping track of how their children fare in schools that have begun to open post-pandemic. The women have also formed study groups to help each other, particularly in basic bookkeeping for commercial ventures through self-help groups.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 7:44:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/smart-papas-smarter-mamas-fight-school-dropout/article32751250.ece

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