Priya Dutt and members of the Nargis Dutt Foundation in Shahapur
On Independence Day, hundreds of tribal children living in Murbad and few from Shahapur talukas of Thane district will have a reason to smile. Those from Murbad will be presented with food, crayons, drawing books, notebooks, pens, slates and blackboards for their schools, and those from Shahpur will get food grain thanks to the Nargis Dutt Foundation. Priya Dutt, a trustee of the Foundation, ensured this help after reading two mid-day reports on the plight of the people here.
Moved by the story in mid-day on August 1, titled 'Here, HSC pass outs run special 'Covid schools' for younger students,' highlighting the plight of thousands of tribal students deprived of basic schooling, due to the extended lockdown, the Dutt Foundation, decided to provide stationery for hundreds of the tribal students.
Priya Dutt, who is one of trustees, was also concerned that while the state education department was encouraging the urban students to continue with their online classes, the tribal students were deprived of any such facility, due to non-availability of basic infrastructures like – high end mobile phones, uninterrupted power and Internet connectivity, etc.
Some of the donated items include 300 notebooks, drawing books, crayons, pencil boxes, ball point pens, slates, etc.
To ensure that these children in the tribal villages (between stds I to VII) don't miss out on their basic primary education during the academic year, Shramik Mukti Sangathana, a community based organisation (CBO), located in Murbad, had recently written an email to the state Chief Minister and Education Minister, giving options of continuing with regular schooling in the tribal areas. Unfortunately, there was no response to the mail.
'Decided to help students'
Speaking to mid-day, Priya Dutt said, "I was overwhelmed to read the mid-day story, where HSC pass outs from tribal villages were doing great work by ensuring that the children did not miss out on their basic education and learning, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and non-availability of teachers to teach them. So we decides to provide a helping hand to these students in every possible way."
"It was during my conversation with Indavi Tulpule of Shramik Mukti Sanghatana soon after, that she mentioned about the lack of stationery, which many students cannot afford. She even stated that to begin with, 300 sets would be sufficient to the 12 COVID Special Schools' running in Murbad taluka and one in Shahapur taluka, which is at present operational," said Priya.
Some of the students of a special COVID school in Thane district
She further added, "Since we had already provided school bags and school kits for students affected by flash floods in the state of Kerala last year, our team had all the details of suppliers, and accordingly, we could place orders for crayon colours, ball point pens, drawing and note books, black board, slates etc."
"This model of teaching tribal children within their villages is a very good initiative and it should be started in other districts too and in the rest of the country. Those who have passed out HSC and graduates from these tribal villages are doing commendable work, and their effort should be applauded. I will give them all forms of support wherever needed," she said.
Tulpule said, "The stationery was delivered by the suppliers on behalf of Nargis Dutt Foundation on August 12. Some students are very good in drawing and they are surely going to be excited getting the crayons and drawing books. Also five 3 X 4 feet black boards will be given to those tribal schools which don't have such facilities. These 'COVID-19 schools' were started so that the tribal children do not forget their basic learning amidst the lockdown and slowly other tribal villages are also joining the movement."
Volunteers of Nargis Dutt Foundation and Priya Dutt at Shahapur
"Now, the students are so used to the daily school, run by their own village HSC passed out temporary teacher from the village, that they are enjoying the class, as there is no barrier to communication. Also only if students remain present for the entire week they get the snack on Saturday, which encourages them to report daily to school," she added.
For malnourished kids and mothers
After another article of mid-day on May 21, titled 'COVID-19: Tribals Take Double Hit As Job-Loss And Malnutrition On Rise,' that talked about supplies to aanganwadis being hit in the state's worst-hit regions, and an alarming rise in numbers of both moderately and severely malnourished children at Jawhar, Shahpur and Melghat, Priya visited Shahapur. Priya said, "I visited Shahapur along with a team of doctors and volunteers, and came across 48 malnourished children and mothers. They were deprived of nutritious foods, and were going through tough times, due to the lockdown. On August 13, our volunteers visited the place again and conducted a routine check up and also provided the food kits. We will continue to visit them and provide nutritious food to them in future too."
Snacks for Independence Day
When asked about the special mid-day snack on the occasion of Independence Day, Tulpule said, "I have requested the teachers in the special COVID-19 Schools to get bananas or any other fruits. They could also get anything from the local shops, such as biscuits, chips, etc." Since it is Saturday, though students are not allowed at the flag hoisting ceremony (due to lockdown reasons), they will come to school at their regular time for the snack.
When asked about the special mid-day snack on the occasion of Independence Day, Tulpule said, "I have requested the teachers in the special COVID-19 Schools to get bananas or any other fruits. They could also get anything from the local shop, such as biscuits, chips, etc."
Ganpat Ughada, 26, from Mohawadi tribal village who has done his BA/DED and has been unemployed for the past few years, volunteers at the school. He said, "Many students are fond of drawing and do not even have proper books and stationery. Their parents have no income due to the lock down. I am thankful to the ma'am (Priya Dutt) for having thought of the tribal students."
Asked about the special mid-day snack for the students, Ganpat said, "We are running short of money, as many of our villagers are without jobs due to the lockdown. It is not good to ask any help, when everyone in the village is going through this. I will still give a chocolate worth Re1 to each of the 34 students. They will get stationery which will make them feel good."
Kalpana Kharpade, Block Education Officer, Murbad taluka said, "The entire Taluka (Murbad) has around 329 Zilla Parishad primary schools and 405 higher secondary (aided and unaided schools). Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Murbad, as a precaution, all school teachers are allowed to attend school."
Talking about the special schools, she said, "It is a very good initiative by Tulpule, and some students from few villages have also started attending the school regularly."
About the Independence Day celebration in school, Kharpade said, "We have been instructed by the education department that all teachers should be present for the flag hoisting and students are not expected to report to school. Students who want to give speeches, will do so through online facility provided in the school."
Kharpade added, that the education department from Thane district, will conduct a review meeting on September 8 and if everything works well, gradually the teachers will report to work and in a phased manner even students will allowed to attend regular school.
She appreciated the gesture of the Nargis Dutt Foundation saying, "The ZP schools usually do not supply stationery items to the students, but they are provided with few books for their education purpose. So any such move is welcome."
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