FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT

  • UBEER NAQUSHBANDI
  • Publish Date: Jun 24 2019 3:33AM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 24 2019 3:33AM
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHTPhoto: Kashmir Ink

A three-room-hutment with neatly manicured lawns, breeze laden with aroma of dahlias, marigolds, and roses, besides  pines and cypress on its sides for a moment gives a feel of recreation park. A vegetable garden also dots the park on the periphery.

Laughter of kids in bright green uniforms makes atmosphere more cheerful. They make every effort that no plant in the garden is left  unwaterered.  The reverie is broken once the bell goes off and kids who seem to act more than their age, all rush inside.

The lawn is not the result of labour of some gardener, but of primary school kids, who translate their text book lessons into practice.  

It is the Government Primary School at non-descript Peerpora village of Shopian whose courtyard until a few years ago served as the village’s dumping yard, full of weeds. With stench and litter all around, education of children seemed no priority at the school. But all that is history now.

The school  is now not only full of children, but innovative teaching method is also making more parents  send their wards here. A rarity in Kashmir where otherwise parents prefer to send their children to private schools for better education.     

The credit of lighting village’s ‘pillar of enlightenment’ goes to its own son of the soil Nazir Ahmad Bhat.  

Master Bhat took over the charge of the school some five years ago.

“I was working as resource person in the department. In  summer of 2015, I was given an opportunity to do what I had yearned to do since my childhood. I wanted to do something for my own people,” says Bhat, while taking a break from his classes in the lawn of the school.

After assuming charge, Bhat realised that parents were reluctant to send their wards to the school.  Besides, already enrolled students too weren’t showing  interest  in continuing  studies at the school.

“I had the option to carry on my job routinely. But I sensed an opportunity in it to do something for my village where I was born and brought up,” Bhat said.

He decided to turn the school into an “attractive place” for kids. 

“There were heaps of cow dung and garbage with stench all around. The school’s structure was also in a shambles. Who would want to study in that environment?”

He along with his other two colleagues got into the act of cleaning the school premises. Sensing the zeal with which school teachers were cleansing the school premises, people of the village also joined them. Within a few weeks the premises were cleared of all the muck.

The school also lacked proper matting and furniture. For this Bhat also had a plan.

“There is also a Panchayat Ghar next to our school. It  had furniture. I got Panchayat members on board and took up the matter of allowing us to use the unused furniture at the Panchayat Ghar with Rural Development Department. I made them understand that education is imperative for rural development. And they understood it”.

Now, Bhat’s priority shifted towards imparting quality education. 

“I wanted to impart practical training to the children. Since ours is a primary school and we are dealing with kids, I wanted to  add an element of fun to the studies”.

Bhat’s found it easy impart the practical skills such as gardening at a place  where most of the kids came from farming background. “It is something that comes naturally to people from rural areas. Intention was to make children feel at home, while inducing element of curiosity, discipline and learning”.

Besides, Bhat also got community help in getting different sets of uniform for children at his school. “Look at government level, we have only one uniform. I decided to get another set of colourful uniform for children. It was just to make things attractive”.

The efforts of Bhat also started bearing fruit with people choosing this government school school for their kids over the  two other private institutions in the area and Army Goodwill School. 

“The roll has doubled at our school. It was  around 40 earlier. Now we have got some 87 students enrolled at our school”.

Last year, Bhat got census done at his village, so that no child belonging to weaker economic class is left out. “It is my duty to get everyone here educated. Nobody should be deprived of education due to poverty. People in the community also contribute towards school in every way”.

 Bhat is also the first literate person from Peerpora. “I am the first one to complete post-graduation from my village. Now only my student has completed doctorate,” says Bhat beaming with pride.

Bhat credits his teacher Bal Krishan, a  pandit, for his achievement. “He inculcated in me virtues of civic sense and community responsibility,” Bhat said. “He used to make us plant trees around our school. And make us understand ecological importance of trees”.  

Perhaps, Bhat’s efforts of “innovative learning” has started bearing fruit with his pupils dreaming big about their future. Mudasir Ahmad Chopan, a specially abled child aspires to become a first doctor from the village.

Ask Chopan, a 5th grade student to why he wants to be a doctor, he says: “to find a treatment to the disease that has made me handicapped”. Enough to bring tears in eyes of his teacher, Bhat.

Bhat’s effort may be a small step in the direction of  drawing people back to  government sector schools, but it is large enough to show the way  how it is done.

As kids at Bhat’s school sing aloud: “…haat sai haat milayaen gai, gheet khushi ke ghayain gai (Will join hands to sing songs of happiness)”