The Sashastra Seema Bal is on an unusual mission in the village where Birsa Munda was born
For the past six years, officers and jawans of the central armed police force, who have camped at Ulihati village in Jharkhand, are imparting education and providing career guidance to tribal children.
Manoj Choudhary 11 Oct 2023 9:47 AM GMT
Ulihatu (Khunti), Jharkhand
The quaint Ulihatu has a deep historical significance in India’s freedom struggle because it is in this village, located about 60 kilometres from the state capital Ranchi, that the tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda was born in 1875.
Though the tribal leader lived a short span of time and died in Ranchi jail at a young age of 25, he is celebrated even today as one of the greatest freedom fighters of the country.
And perhaps, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), India’s border guarding force, is paying Birsa Munda the best kind of tribute by educating young children at Munda’s birthplace village. The security personnel regularly visit classrooms at the Birsa Awasiya Uchcha Vidyalaya , a residential school in Khunti district of Jharkhand, and teach rural children. They also hold career counselling classes.
“Our motto in SSB is Seva, Suraksha, Bandhutva (service, security and brotherhood) and we are trying to live up to it,” Neelesh Suman Santosh Masule, assistant commandant and commanding officer of the SSB 26 Battalion in Ulihatu camp, told Gaon Connection. He has recently been posted there.
“Lack of education, social ignorance and the Naxal movement have hindered the progress of this area but in the past couple of years, things are looking up,” said Masule. He added that the state government and Sashastra Seema Bal were playing an important role in changing the study environment for the children in the area. Sashastra Seema Bal comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs and is one of the seven Central Armed Police Forces.
When soldiers turn teachers
It all started six years ago, in 2017, when 26 Battalion of the Sashastra Seema Bal set up a camp in Ulihatu village to fight against the Naxal movement. Apart from guarding the villagers, the security personnel also decided to educate the young children and started conducting classes at the village school, which mostly has tribal students.
The security personnel are a regular at classes and are working closely with the students and staff of the school to bring children up to date about career options and excel at academics.
Ajay Mahali, a student of class 10 at the residential Birsa Awasiya Uchcha Vidyalaya, wants to become a bara aadmi, a big man. And he hopes career counselling classes conducted by the Sashastra Seema Bal will tell him how.
“I am fortunate to be guided by SSB officials. I want to become a doctor and achieve fame in society. Being a doctor I will serve the security personnel, who have been teaching us. I want to be a strong and patriotic person like the jawans,” the young teenager told Gaon Connection.
Teachers at the school are also grateful to the security personnel. “The personnel of SSB are doing a wonderful thing helping the students make career choices. Most of the children are ignorant about the professional world, and eagerly look forward to the session with the SSB,” said Sanjay Kumar Minj, a teacher at the school. Senior class students eagerly follow SSB officers’ suggestions, he added.
Students freely discuss their dreams and ambitions with the Sashastra Seema Bal personnel who in turn guide them in the right way to their professional goals. The security personnel motivate the students to study and work hard and give them practical information and the nuts and bolts of how to achieve their goals.
Information and education about career options can be the game changer to young people living in the remote villages in Jharkhand, and the Sashastra Seema Bal is doing just that.
“One of the students wanted to become a driver like his father who drove trucks. We told him how to apply for a licence, apply for loans to buy a vehicle of his own, and then start a transport business,” said assistant commandant Masule.
According to him, the students are also guided about competitive exams and how to prepare for them. The assistant commandant also shared his own experience with the children: “I am an engineer and I cleared the UPSC [Union Public Service Commission] exams, and I can tell them first hand what that is all about and how to go about it.”
“Education and books can change a person’s life and build their future. We teach students the importance of education that can lead to their progress and development,” Masule added.
Bonding with students
Besides the counselling, the Sashastra Seema Bal officers and jawans play hockey, football, volleyball, cricket and other sports with the students and frequently conduct debates, quizzes, and discussions on. They also provide sports kits to the students and regularly conduct tournaments and award prizes to motivate children.
“For us the students are like our younger siblings or even our own children. We guide them in sports and academic affairs. A couple of students have the potential in them to become professional players,” M Ramki Niwas, head constable at SSB who is posted to Ulihatu, told Gaon Connection.
Niwas has been posted at the village for two years and is attached to the children there. “We also strongly warn the students about the dangers of substance abuse,” the constable added.
Sashastra Seema Bal has become a beacon of hope to the parents in the area. “As parents we were ignorant about the possibilities that existed for our children. With the help of SSB officials, we now know more about the world outside and how our children can achieve their goals,” said Junul Swansi, a resident of Ulihatu.
Birsa Awasiya Uchcha Vidyalaya, which was established in 2008 by the state government’s welfare department at Bhagwan Birsa Munda Complex. The residential school educates 315 children from Naxal affected villages from districts such as Khunti, Tamar and West Singhbhum in Jharkhand. It has classes from one to ten, has two permanent teachers and 12 temporary ones. Nearly 10 per cent of the students are from Ulihatu village in Khunti.