A Teacher in Meghalaya Dispels the Haze of Substance Abuse in Children
For the past three decades, national award winning teacher Gamchi Timre R Marak has been providing education in remote town Williamnagar in northeast India.
Sayantani Deb 28 Oct 2023 6:03 AM GMT
Williamnagar is a remote town in northeast India located 225 kilometres from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. Nestled in East Garo Hills, the area used to be insurgency-hit and no teacher wanted to go to Williamnagar to educate the tribal children there.
And then came Gamchi Timre R Marak, who for the past three decades is not only teaching children in the remote corner of the country but also counselling and helping them fight substance abuse.
"When students embroiled in substance abuse come to seek help, I make it a point to understand the root cause and provide counselling tailored to their specific needs. In due course, I connect them with the youth counsellors from the Child Protection Office for extensive sessions,” 59-year-old Marak told Gaon Connection. She received the prestigious national teachers award in 2022.
One of her ex-students, who is now a successful professional, recalled how he spent his teenage years in a dark space. He fell into substance abuse that ravaged his physical and mental well-being.
“Two decades ago I got addicted to illicit substances and couldn’t get through the day without them. I lost interest in studies, I barely spoke to anyone in my family or outside and spent most of my days in a haze,” he told Gaon Connection
It is then that Marak, who was then the head teacher of his school, intervened and saved her student’s life.
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“She came home, spoke to my family members, did preliminary counselling, and even took me to a professional counsellor. Gradually, I regained my zeal for learning and other extracurricular pursuits and finally became successful in life,” he narrated wishing to remain anonymous.
Marak has turned around the lives of several young children in remote corners of Meghalaya. Her care, empathy and determination have pulled children back from the brink into the mainstream once again.
Recollecting her journey, she said, “When my husband and I came here [Williamnagar], there were just a handful of educated people. That motivated us to spread the light of education in this remote place.”
In 1989, Marak helped Town Baptist Church, Williamnagar, in opening the Town Nursery School, later renamed Greenyard English School. In 1994, along with like-minded people and at the behest of the community, she established Educere School for junior students.
“I got tremendous support from the people here. A local inhabitant built the school on his private land and rented it out to the school,” she recalled.
With time the school progressed and was granted recognition by the Meghalaya Board of School Education in 2002. Marak’s efforts and dedication bore fruit when in 2014 the school was elevated to the higher secondary level. She is now the principal of Educere Higher Secondary School.
With an enrollment of 370 students, mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds, Educere Higher Secondary School has evolved into a need-based local institution. It caters to a diverse lot of students who could be those seeking quality and innovative education, dropouts, students expelled from other institutions, or disillusioned youngsters with nowhere else to turn.
There are also children from marginalised communities, children of single parents or orphans who require special care and attention.
Marak is quick to point out that the children are not segregated. The school is inclusive and pays extra attention to those that need it, she explained.
Miansha N Marak, a class 10 student, said how she was warmly welcomed into the school. “I was studying in another school but as I did not perform well there I had to leave. I took admission here where the teachers were exceptionally helpful and supportive. Our head teacher herself takes motivational classes which encourage me to do better,” Miansha told Gaon Connection. She was one of the best students in the class, she said proudly.
Due to the consistent guidance and counselling of Marak and her colleagues, many children from the insurgency-hit areas have continued to study and secured a better future for themselves and their family members.
Holistic development is what the school strives for, Pringchi N Marak, a senior teacher at the school said. “As co-curricular activities, the school offers Taekwondo, music, Scouts and Guides, crafts, etc. We have a forest nursery, and we are in the process of establishing a Health and Wellness club” she told Gaon Connection.
“Mostly, teachers hesitate to join schools in challenging locations such as these. Marak chose Williamnagar and is doing her level best to develop its education scenario. Meghalaya needs more teachers like Marak,” Samuel K Sangma, Sub-Divisional Education officer, told Gaon Connection.