Agriculture is a sought after vocational course in this village high school in West Bengal
Purandarpur Higher Secondary School in Bankura offers vocational courses to its students who come from economically weaker rural families. Seven of its students have made it to the top 10 merit list of the recent exam held by West Bengal State Council of Technical & Vocational Education and Skill Development.
Madhu Sudan Chatterjee 27 Jun 2023 6:28 AM GMT
Purandarpur (Bankura), West Bengal
For Neha Banerjee, it is a bittersweet time. The 18-year-old student of Purandarpur Higher Secondary School, in Bankura district, West Bengal, is jubilant because she stood first in the examination in the vocational courses offered by the West Bengal Board of Technical and Vocational Education and Skill Development.
Daughter of a daily wage worker, Neha, who studied agriculture at the school, knows this is an opportunity of a lifetime where she can equip herself with skills that will help her get a job and support her father who is suffering from cancer and too poor to afford proper treatment.
Neha studied agriculture as a vocational course at the school. And having cleared the exam, the teenager will soon leave her village home to further study at the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya in Kalyani, about 60 kilometres away.
Purandarpur village lies about 200 kilometres away from the state capital Kolkata, closer to the West Bengal-Jharkhand border. Most of the people in and around the village, including Neha’s father, are marginal farmers, farm labourers, or fishers, who struggle to earn a living.
For many of the students who study at Purandarpur Higher Secondary School, and their parents it is nothing short of a miracle that they are able to study at all. And this year, seven students from the school have been placed among the toppers on the merit list in the results of the exam held by the West Bengal State Council of Technical & Vocational Education and Skill Development.
Headmaster Soumitra Banerjee couldn’t be prouder of the performance of the seven students of his school whose names have appeared in the state merit list.
“Vocational courses were started in the school in 2006. These included information technology, agriculture, and mobile repairing courses, which are taught to them in classes 11 and 12. These courses have been very useful to the students coming from rural backgrounds and offer them job opportunities in the future,” the headmaster told Gaon Connection.
The school, established in 1961, has about 900 students studying from classes five to twelve, informed the headmaster.
Shraboni Shit is the joint first rank holder with Neha, and also comes from straitened circumstances. Her father is a tempo driver. Second rank holder, Pallab Singh is the son of a mason. The joint first rank holders and the second ranker all studied agriculture, and all three have been offered seats at the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya in Kalyani.
“We have struggled to make ends meet ever since the pandemic. I live with my grandmother and parents in a hut. The school and our teachers have helped us in every possible way,” second-rank-holder Pallab told Gaon Connection.
The students of the school are well aware of the dedication of their teachers.
“Headmaster Soumitra Banerjee Sir, admitted us and paid all the admission-related expenses. And, we promised ourselves that we would do well,” said Neha.
“If the teachers had not helped us the way they did, we may have not even gone to school,” Pallab added. Pallab and Neha live in Bikna village about 5 kms away, while Shraboni lives in Keshiyakul village, about 6 kms away from the school.
Agriculture, a sought after vocation
Agriculture is a sought after vocational course at the Purandarpur school. Amit Parui teaches vocational agriculture at the school. “Purandarpur village lies about 200 kilometres away from the state capital Kolkata, closer to the West Bengal-Jharkhand border.,” explained the teacher who is in his mid-30s.
Priti Chattoraj, Dona Singh, and Akash Lo, who are in class eleven and are studying agriculture, said that their teacher brought them here to practically demonstrate what he had taught them from the textbook.
“We learn how to increase production and take care of plants. We have a growing interest in agriculture. We now know how to grow three-colored flowers on a jaba (hibiscus) tree using modern horticulture science,” Akash Lo told Gaon Connection.
According to Amit Parui, who teaches vocational agriculture at the school, he earns Rs 13,700 a month as a teacher of which he pays Rs 5,000 as house rent. His own home is in Garhbeta, which is 67 kms away.
For Parui, his salary is not something he thinks about often. “I can’t put a price tag on the respect I receive from my students and their guardians. When my former students have found good jobs and are doing well, that is the best reward I can dream of,” he smiled.
Beyond the call of duty
During the pandemic, the teachers of Purandarpur Higher Secondary School went well beyond their duty hours to ensure the students did not discontinue or drop out of school during the pandemic. “They visited us in our homes, distributed study materials and question papers and urged our parents to ensure that we continue to study,” recalled Ananya Kundu, a student of class ten.
“They even provided us with exercise books and pens,” added Upasona Singh, another tenth-grade student.
Nirmal Mondal, a parent of a student of Goira village, said that the teachers were always at hand to help. “This encouraged our children to continue to study during the pandemic. The teachers would collect the homework they did and correct them too,” he told Gaon Connection.
Helping students in and out of school
“The local and district school administration is proud of the work done by the teachers of Purandarpur School,” Sajal Mahato, the local School Inspector of Bankura Sadar East Circle, told Gaon Connection. He said it was rare to find so many teachers of the same school so willingly go beyond the call of duty.
“A student, Soumita Kotal, who is in class 11, lost her father in a road accident recently. The teachers are supporting her and have pledged to take on the responsibility to ensure she completes her studies,” he said.
According to Mahato, the vocational courses were welcomed by students coming from the economically weaker families as mainstream education was expensive and a vocational education made them job-ready when they passed out.
“They are all wanting to get a job as soon as they can to support their families. And, this is the reason we do not charge the students of the vocational course any fee for admissions, registrations or examinations. The school teachers provide them with any stationery that they may require,” the school inspector said.