Thursday, December 23, 2021

Rajmani, The story of a born Leader! : Priyanka Kaushik

The story of a born Leader ("Rajmani")

Edu-leader Rajmani from Batch 4 teaches at the Madhya Vidyalaya Banktola, Farda in Jamalpur block of Munger district, Bihar. 

When she visited the school for the first time, she was shocked to see that there was only one classroom with 30 students present – all the students from classes 1 to 8 were sitting in one classroom even though there were 2 more classrooms! However, when she and another edu-leader Sakshi (who was also placed in the same school) started teaching daily, the strength of the class increased to 80 within two months!

Rajmani tackled the low student attendance and enrolment problem by getting in touch with community members to bring school dropouts back to the classroom. Kapil Dev, an active community member and secretary of village Farda, helped Rajmani a lot in bringing school dropouts back to school. Because of this increase in numbers, the students now sit in 3 separate classrooms with 3 teachers – one classroom has been taken over by Rajmani, one by Sakshi (another edu-leader), and one by the schoolteacher Sujeet, who was the only teacher there besides the headmaster.

There was also the problem of lack of discipline among students. Rajmani took care of this by setting classroom rules for students like she fixed the timing for classes to begin at 9:30 AM, nobody could go outside the classroom without taking the teacher’s permission and children had to come to school wearing school uniforms and footwear.

The headmaster of the school, Sudarshan, and Mukhiya (head) of the village also supported Rajmani in her teaching journey. Sudarshan was so impressed with Rajmani’s teaching and behavior that he even handed her the school keys! Mukhiya himself started teaching in the school when there were a large number of students present. He had been a teacher before retirement and still enjoyed teaching. 

Rajmani would visit the community daily in her initial months of fellowship and did everything possible to mitigate the problems she faced. One of the problems was handling the boys who regularly passed comments to her on the way to school. Fortunately, Headmaster Sudarshan and Secretary Kapildev managed to talk to the parents of these boys, which solved this matter. 

Rajmani also helped delay the marriage of a 15-year-old girl, Shobha. Shobha was not very studious and it had been hard for her to pass the 9th standard. So, her parents wanted to get her married as soon as they found a groom. Rajmani decided to take the help of Alka, who is also an edu-leader of Batch 4. They spoke to Shobha’s parents and took the responsibility of giving personal tuition to her. Three other academically weak girls also got interested and joined Alka and Rajmani’s tuition classes. Both the edu-leaders worked very hard with the girls so that they pass their classes. Rajmani’s efforts showed results and the girls are now doing well in their studies. Shobha is in the 12th standard now and there is no pressure to get married from her parents – all thanks to our edu-leaders Rajmani and Alka.

Shobha (left) with edu-leader Alka (right) in their community

During the peak of Covid-19, our edu-leaders took it as their social responsibility to help the community by raising awareness about the preventive actions to be taken.

They reached the people in the community via phone calls and spread awareness about early risk detection. They helped in providing access to medical facilities and essential services, such as financial support for ration and educational supplies. 

Rajmani talking to her student Sonali’s mother during a community visit -- Sonali didn’t come to school that day

Rajmani gave her full support to the community during the pandemic and now the people are obliged to her for life. They are welcoming her into their personal lives – students are inviting her for birthdays, festival celebrations, and wedding functions in their families. When she calls the students’ parents to share updates about their children, they invite her to their homes to have meals with them. 

Some parents are still in regular contact with her. Even today when she visits the community, some people recognize her and share their problems and their children’s academic progress with her. The parents’ trust in Rajmani, which was built during the pandemic, was perhaps one of the reasons why she was able to understand her students better and build strong relationships with them. Also, parent-teacher meetings (PTMs) in the community further played an important role in building this trust. 

Before joining the fellowship, Rajmani did not like talking or playing with children. She believed that most children are not obedient.  However, now she finds the energy that a child possesses can be handled, one just needs the right approach to channelize their energies. The fellowship introduced her to various ways of channelizing children’s energy, keeping them engaged, encouraging them to talk to peers, asking open-ended questions, and becoming involved in the play. 

     During the fellowship, Rajmani’s journey started from being an introvert – someone who found it difficult to even talk to her family members – to an active citizen of her community creating an impact. Workshops, sessions, group discussions, and presentations helped her step out of her comfort zone, making her feel more confident. She is now a self-reliant individual who can analyze situations, think deeply, take decisions as per the situation and facilitate others to solve an issue.

Rajmani’s mother shared how she used to be a quiet person who was not comfortable talking to relatives, community persons, and strangers. Now she is leading conversations with the headmaster, teachers, and i-Saksham team members daily. In their locality, Rajmani is now more popular than her father. He is proud of his daughter and is thrilled to see how she has overcome her fears during this fellowship. 

Rajmani comes from a community where girls who have passed class 12th are rare to find, and now Rajmani is aspiring for higher education. After completing her graduation she wants to take admission in masters.

 Priyanka Kaushik is handling communications at i-Saksham.

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