No teacher stayed in this school long enough, until Puran Lal Chaudhary came along
In 2015, when Puran Lal Chaudhary was posted as a teacher at Barua Behad village in Bahraich district, Uttar Pradesh, barely 12 students came to the school. No teacher wanted to stay in the village that had no electricity and was pretty backward in basic amenities. Chaudhary stayed on and transformed the school. The educator who won the state teachers’ award shares his journey.
Pooran Lal Chaudhary 6 May 2023 9:30 AM GMT
The school I teach in is in Barua Behad village, which is surrounded by the river Ghaghra. Anyone coming here, especially during the monsoons, has to use boats to get here.
When I came here in 2015, there was just a temple and this school that was built of brick and mortar. The rest of the village was made up entirely of thatched homes. It is only now that a few pucca homes are appearing. The year I joined, there was no electricity here either. That came much later too.
It became obvious to me that the village was very backward when it came to education. My first goal was to increase the attendance in school.
When I came to Barua Behad village, the school had 170 children on its rolls but only about a dozen showed up to class. There was another teacher who was posted there along with me. There were also two other Shiksha Mitra. But soon one of the Shiksha Mitras left and only three of us were left. The Shiksha Mitras travelled nearly 100 kms every day to get to Barua Behad, and were therefore not very regular in coming to school.
I began teaching those 12 students who came to the school, and after a few days started to know the village community. I realised they were sceptical about how long I would remain there. Past experience had taught them that any teacher who came to their village, made sure they got transferred at the earliest. No teacher wanted to stay in this village that was difficult to access, had no electricity and was pretty backward in basic amenities.
I assured them I would stay on and teach the kids. I rented a room about seven kilometres from the school and went to the homes of the students early in the morning in order to take the children to school myself.
In school, I introduced games and other activities to engage the children. I made teams of two of the students who came to school and called them the vigilant police! I told them to inform whichever child they met about what happened at school and also tell them that their Sir distributed toffees.
The strategy worked and soon there were 120 children within a month, who began to attend school.
Gradually the numbers increased to 200. I began including drama in the classroom and the children and I would enact the lessons we were doing. Often, we would set the poems to film songs and sing them out together.
Awareness on scholarship scheme
I also began to spread awareness about government schemes in education for children who came from economically backward homes. There is a National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship by the central government, given to meritorious students of economically weaker sections. Hardly anyone was aware of it. I began to disseminate the information.
When I began to do this, the Basic Education Officer in Bahraich made me a nodal officer. Through WhatsApp and Google meet, I began to train the students in Bahraich to apply for the exam that could get them the scholarship.
In 2022, about 1,500 students applied for the exam from Bharaich, and 165 of them got the scholarship.
Many of my students are doing well. And nothing makes me happier. One of my students, Aseem Khan taught as a lecturer at Jimma University in Ethiopia while another, Tafseer Khan is a lecturer at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi. Many other students of mine have been selected for teaching posts by the government too.
In 2021, the Uttar Pradesh Government honoured me with the State Teacher Award.
Journey as a teacher
I always wanted to be a teacher in a rural school. Perhaps it was because I was born and grew up in a fairly rural environment as my father was a farmer in Sirauli.
I was born in January 1977, and completed my primary education, matriculation and inter at the National Agriculture and Industries College. I did my Bachelors in Literature and History at KGK College in Moradabad, after which I did my B.Ed from MJP Rohilkhand University in 2000.
Between 2000 and 2015, when I came here to Barua Behad village, I taught English at the Jain Academy in Bareilly between 2001 and 2003. I was also an assistant teacher at Gauri Shankar Inter College in Gularia, Uttar Pradesh between 2004 and 2012.
I even started a Primary School in Sirauli and called it Gyandev Convent School. I wanted to teach students there who could not afford to go to school. It was free. But, I decided to shut the school down when I was selected as a government school teacher in 2015.
After a nine-month training in Bahraich in a primary school, I was posted the same year to the government primary school in Barua Behad in Bahraich district, where I still teach.
For me, a teacher should do his best to impart education to his students no matter what caste, community, political leanings or economic background they come from. A teacher’s job is to enable the students to become the best people they can. That is the only way an educator can do justice to his or her profession. The students become the teachers’ family. That is all there is to it.
As told to the Gaon Connection intern Danish Iqbal.