For long, the administration- the sarkaar– was something high-up there in the hierarchy of things. They made plans for the communities, for their development and welfare and gathered resources for these plans. The communities, on the other hand, were destined to hope that the administration knows best about how, when and where to implement these. The communities could urge, request, make their case but seldom claim, particularly so in education.
With the Right to Education Act and its increasing reach among the communities in rural India, the equation is changing. And how. This change can be witnessed among the mothers of Darlimunda in Nuapada, Odisha, when they say that they make sure their kids reach the primary school in the village. The women representatives in Panchayat and SMC work together to make sure that issues of education are discussed and acted upon in the meeting, said a SMC member, Kalpalata Pradhan, in the MTA group meeting.
The change can be witnessed in the constantly increasing understanding of communities about education and its stakeholders. The ex-president of SMC in Kushdhauna in Komna, Odisha is quick to point out to the residents that parents have to take responsibility for the education of their children. Be it Pipalchhadi or Jhanjimunda in Komna, Odisha, the SMC members not only understand but also elegantly articulate issues of learning deficits and why it should be addressed. And this increased understanding is equally reflected in the increased collaboration of teachers like Arun Manjhi and Mr. Mahananda attend and respond to the concerns of SMC and village residents. It is commendable because they also have to engage with the government systems and yet they joined the village residents in their dream to ensure quality education for their children. This is indeed the drum-roll for a grand beginning. Most of the SMCs in these areas have finished their tenure. In many places the SMCs have decided to include a child representative.
This strong awareness has to be matched with a swift response from the administration to keep the this interaction with the communities from turning confrontational. Also, a huge responsibility lies with the practitioners- including AIF and its implementation partners to facilitate the improvements in a collaborative way. Another challenge is to integrate the sustainability of activity-based teaching and learning practices in the vision of the communities for their ideal school.
So how do we balance this equation of vision and will from the communities for a sustained effort to transform education in Nuapada? By adjusting the magnitude of all these variables of community mobilization, advocacy, collaboration and realistic action oriented planning at all levels of stakeholders. For 10 years AIF and Lokadrusti have worked together to make stakeholders aware of their claims and responsibilities towards the education of their children. Going forward, along with Lokadrusti, AIF will focus on engaging with these stakeholders to further the process of change from ideas to actions to more ideas.