Ananya’s Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust.
‘Masti’ means joy!
The journey started with my arrival as an AIF Clinton Fellow in Delhi on 1st September 2018, meeting my folks and again departing for our destination. While dropping into rural Bihar, Samastipur, on 14th Sep for the first time, I felt that I am not very far from my home state. A lustrous span of paddy fields, chain of palm trees, dusty roads, silted river belt and tropical vegetation cannot much differentiate rural Samastipur of Bihar from other parts of India. Followed by curious people, cheerful honking, travel-aid music, litti-chokha (an unique Bihar platter made up of wheat flour, lentil flour, potato or eggplant) and Sattu ki Sarbat (drink made by lentil flour) can again make you feel being in Bihar.
My host organization Quest Alliance is closely working with education functionaries in the Government Middle Schools of Samastipur district, Bihar. The aim is to make the school joyful, as we call it as Anandshala, “anand” means joy and “shala” means school or place in multiple Indian languages. Like other states of India, Bihar has also faced a huge rate of drop-out from school. Thus, to stop the children from dropping out from school, Quest is working to create an environment which will make the children stay, engage, and learn. If the child stays back in the school and engage themselves with the school activities, then only they can learn. Along with it, we will build community towards the school.
Anandshala is a learning journey of my organization. It believes in the learning capability of a child. This acknowledges that creating a suitable environment in school can actually help children to learn more. They are catalyzing motivation among the teachers and education functionaries in the block and district levels. They are building the community to trust their teachers and the children to love their schools.
I am here with Anandshala to capture the stories of change. The roller coaster ride was taken by the schools to make it an “Anandshala”. What has made them different? How was the deed? These inspirational stories can create a difference.
“Didi, aap nayi aayi ho” (Sister, are you coming new here?) said a girl of Class of VII in a Middle School of Samastipur. It was my first day of school visit here and the answer was “yes”. The girl with her friends took me to their classroom on the first floor. I was so surprised in happiness to see the classroom with colourful painting, decorative boards, and so on. They were asking repeatedly how I liked their classroom. I was so filled with joy, to see something so good after a long time, that I needed some time to respond. The children were so happy with the visitor in their school, that they had taken me on a tour. It was followed by the morning assembly. Here I found that the students were taught about the shapes and angles in geometry. Wow! Mathematics can be so fantastic.
It reminds me of my own school building, serious teachers, and awaiting for the school to get over. Similarly, longing for the game classes which used to come once a week. The art and painting classes were one of the major attractions, to be more creative. How we had loved to study outside in the winter mornings. How afraid we were to tell anything to our teachers. How we used to ignore our interest in doing activities of our own choice. How we were imposed to learn something that we never wanted to. There was an invisible distance from our teachers.
After meeting with the students in the schools of rural Bihar, I have found happiness, togetherness, zeal of creativity, and aspiration to be someone. The place has taught me to get happiness in small things. This has helped to re-think myself. Here, people are simple but colourful, also poor with wealthy hearts. Before coming down to this place, I have never thought this one month would be so interesting for me. Finding ‘masti’ (joy/happiness) in Samastipur would be so sweet.
Education has been a major concern in India, but the sphere of primary education was not properly looked upon. But now, slowly, things are changing here. People are sending their children to school. They have felt the importance of education. Till there is a long run to go. I hope to search and capture all those milestones which would help us to reach this goal. As Anandshala is helping to find happiness in the school and in the community life, I truly guess it will definitely help to find my happiness in life. Nothing gives you more pleasure than smiling faces of children. Whenever I enter a school, they will welcome me with a big smile.