She travelled from Mumbai to a remote village in Kargil to find a purpose in life — Teaching
Twenty-seven-year-old Rana Jyoti, a media professional, moved to Kargil to teach rural children from underprivileged backgrounds in Yourbaltak village in Ladakh. She has also spent two years teaching village kids in Himachal Pradesh.
Laraib Fatima Warsi 14 July 2023 6:16 AM GMT
When Rana Jyoti’s young students share their dreams of becoming doctors, nurses, and pilots, it reaffirms her decision to move to Yourbaltak, a village about 18 kilometres away from Kargil in the Union Territory of Ladakh.
Jyoti is a 27-year-old woman who teaches English and Hindi to students from classes LKG to eight at Government Model Middle School in Yourbaltak, which is located in an inhospitable terrain. She travels daily from Balti Bazaar in Kargil city by a bus to reach the village school.
But Jyoti is not a teacher by profession. She is a PR (public relations) professional who belongs to Bhagalpur in Bihar, and used to work in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is her passion and her desire to change the lives of children in remote parts of the country that brought her to Kargil, over 2,300 kilometres away, in May this year.
“While working in Mumbai, I happened to hear about Yourbaltak village in Kargil and how children there struggled to access education and many of them did not attend any school. I decided to visit the village and see it for myself,” Jyoti told Gaon Connection over a phone conversation.
Yourbaltak village has a population of 2,177, and Government Model Middle School is a three-decade-old school that was built in 1965.
“In Kargil, the majority of the families are Muslim families. In Yourbaltak it is only Muslim families, I was curious to understand if education of girls is a priority or not. So I decided to teach in Yourbaltak which is a high altitude village, which means less resources and more challenges.” Jyoti narrated.
“Initially my mother did not agree for me to go to Kargil and teach children there. But eventually I packed my small bag with three kurtas, one trouser, and a shirt, and left for Kargil from Mumbai. And since then I have been at Yourbaltak,” she added.
The Government Model Middle School at Yourbaltak has seven classrooms and one hall for accommodating 70 children. Because of the cold weather the school is closed for a period of three months in a year (December to February).
Continuing with her work-from-home job as a PR professional in a private company (based in New Delhi) and simultaneously teaching the students is an uphill task, however, Jyoti is determined to keep up with the teaching job as it is her dream and to also make a difference in a small way.
“I am still a PR professional, and I will continue to do that. Most of the time I teach early hours and during lunch hours making sure my office doesn't suffer,” she said.
Teaching rural kids in Himachal
This isn’t the first time that Jyoti has taken a road less travelled. In 2020, during the pandemic when almost everyone was locked up inside their homes, Jyoti decided to move to Himachal Pradesh to teach children in the hill villages.
On her visit to Bir village, a famous tourist destination in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, back in 2020, Jyoti met some kids and after chatting with them she noticed that the pandemic had hampered their studies and the kids were lagging behind. She immediately decided to move to Bir and started teaching the kids there. She stayed in Himachal for two-and-a-half-years.
“I moved from Mumbai to Bir in Himachal Pradesh during the pandemic. Schools were shut. Kids were in poor condition, in terms of education,” Jyoti told Gaon Connection. “I started teaching in early hours in small setups like I would gather students in the balcony of the house. I started teaching my landlord’s son. I started working remotely and started contributing as a mentor/ teacher.”
After coming back to Mumbai, she continued with her job but the faces of those children in Himachal never left Jyoti. “Consequently, one fine day I finally switched to doing a work-from-home job so that I can move to Kargil to teach the children and this has been one of the most satisfactory things that I had ever done,” she added.
Teaching children is now an inherent part of Rana Jyoti’s life.
Communication skills workshops
At present, Model Middle School at Yourbaltak is closed for summer vacation and will reopen on July 21. But, Jyoti has organised a communication skills workshop for the village kids.
“I want to ensure that my students do not forget the topics taught to them before the vacation so I am holding this ten-day workshop. The venue for the workshop is our school, however children from nearby villages are also invited to participate in the workshop,” said Jyoti.
Apart from teaching students English and Hindi, Jyoti also teaches students important topics like personality development and soft skills such as time management, problem solving, and teamwork. She also conducts classes on awareness about mental health, and art painting drives.
Jyoti offers playbase learning (PBC) to her students in the school. In this, a play based learning environment is created for students which encourages talking, reading, writing and thinking.
Also, there is one film screening per week. “We take students for different activities like audio visual poetry, games, alphabets, and watch educational videos on YouTube. We organise quizzes to teach grammar and vocabulary building,” she explained.
The school also conducts storytelling sessions for the children to make them understand culture such as telling them about the traditional customs and festivals, improve their listening and language skills and therefore inspire curiosity.
Acting as a bridge
There are local organisations that are pitching in their bit to spread education among children in Kargil.
RZamba is one such Kargil-based charitable trust. It donates English and Hindi story books to Model Middle School. RZamba was co-founded by five friends, who wanted to contribute and bring about a change in the state of education, health, and waste management in Kargil.
RZamba means ‘bridge’ in the Balti language and the organisation has been striving to become a bridge of growth and change between people, resources, systems and the community as a whole.
“The Headmaster, and Village Education Committee are trying to put in a lot of effort. The local community also is now focusing on education more than ever. That is why they agreed to let me conduct a 10 day workshop during their vacation. Since the last four days, 70 plus students have been coming to this school from Yourbaltak village,” said Jyoti.
Talking about her alma mater, Jyoti said that she did her schooling from Navyug Vidyalaya, Bhagalpur. And then went to do her graduation in Mass Communication from Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication, Bhopal.
The daily struggles
There are everyday struggles that we all face here in Kargil, said Jyoti when talking to Gaon Connection.
“There is no proper seating arrangement for the students, no desks and chairs and students sit on carpets and mats while attending their classes. There is water scarcity in the region and hence they face issues like no proper drinking water, washrooms have no taps and the washroom doesn't even have a proper commode. The doors have no latch,” she said.
However, this journey has been liberating and very fulfilling. “I have learnt to express myself even better, to communicate with non verbal means. In fact, since the last day where I am living, the water supply system is terrible as it only functions once in two days. There were less green vegetables. I have learnt to manage and be happy in less.
Yourbaltak is a small village and these days Jyoti is staying in the village, alone in a house, due to the ongoing summer camp. “I cook my meals, do my dishes, and hand wash my clothes. I feel like a 10-year-old every day. I think it has made me a better manager, a better leader,” said Jyoti.
“I have started to value different points of view in a more constructive manner. I have been able to find purpose and would have felt incomplete if I wasn’t doing what I do. Now I feel that I am living up to my worth,” she added.