About 100-odd children in Madhya Pradesh’s tribal areas got together, formed a Bal Panchayat and forced teachers to attend schools regularly.
First, the teachers showed reluctance. But, when the Bal Panchayat approached the higher-ups, they fell in line and now all the 21 schools of 30 villages in Alirajpur district, about 200 kilometres from Indore, have a regular attendance of teachers.
But, what had really inspired the children?
Dama Ramiya,12, a resident of Chikada village, said he never found a teacher in his school. “I was upset and I discussed the problem with my father. He consulted the village sarpanch and then we got the idea of forming a Bal Panchayat in 2014.” Soon the children of 30 villages got together into a panchayat with the help of a tribal organisation Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra (DGVK) and Sondwa block education officer Parmanand Dhakad, now posted at Udaigarh.
It was a door-to-door campaign and the children carried it out with unmatched zeal, said Dhakad, appreciating the way the children consistently complained against the teacher absentees to make sure their classes continued unobstructed.
He said on many occasions he was naturally compelled to accompany them to the schools where the teachers would play a truant. But, when the teachers were told that an action could be taken against them, they started to attend classes and teaching children, he said. “At least 12 villages didn’t have school. But, the Bal Panchayat’s initiative has helped open one school each in these villages, Dhakad said.
Rusiya Bhil, 11, a student of Class 3 and resident Khamari village, happily said, “Now things have changed. The teachers regularly take classes. More children from the nearby schools are joining the panchayat.”
Shankar Talwade, a tribal activist, says the best part is that the bal panchayat’s drive has increased the number of schoolgoers, especially the girls, in the Mathwar Forest Range.