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How Full Length Mirrors Are Helping Keep Chittorgarh Girls in School!

In January 2017, the administration launched ‘Udaan’ – a campaign to ensure that all girls in the district are enrolled in schools by June 2018.

Gone are the days when district collectors and other government officials were inaccessible. Today’s generation of administrators are not only accessible but also media savvy and aware of the work before them.

One such IAS officer is Inderjeet Singh, who is currently posted in Chittorgarh as the collector.

We, at The Better India, spoke to Inderjeet Singh, to understand some of the programmes that he has implemented in his district.

Inderjeet Singh

Inderjeet is an engineer by qualification, who worked in an MNC for two years before quitting in 2008. He joined the civil services in 2010 and belongs to the Rajasthan cadre. “Working in the private sector was good as it gave me a different perspective of how things can be done. Having this experience allows me to view things differently. Working towards a goal is something that has been instilled in me by the private sector,” he said.

Over the last few months, Chittorgarh has been in the news because of the movie ‘Padmavat’. However, another reason why it has been in the news is for the wonderful work that the district administration has been doing to educate girl children in the region.

In January 2017, the administration launched ‘Udaan’ – a campaign to ensure that all girls in the district are enrolled in schools by June 2018.

“Under the campaign, a door-to-door survey of girls in the district was conducted at the village level, and a database was prepared to connect them with education,” said Inderjeet.

Door-to-door data collection

“For any scheme to work it is essential to take into confidence the people whom it will impact. While the Centre can set aside money for projects, the onus of making them work lies on us as administrators,” he says.

With Udaan, Inderjeet speaks of the challenges they faced to get the girls to school.

“It is not enough to just have a school, proper infrastructure and sanitation are equally important.”

Providing quality education

Many girls stop coming to school at the onset of puberty. Those are the kind of challenges we had to work with. Providing the girls with a safe and secure environment to study was the topmost priority for us.”

“While the primary objective of Udaan is to provide quality education it is so much more than that. With this we are empowering girls with the ability to take decisions on their own, creating awareness about the world around them, and instilling confidence in them,” says Inderjeet.

The four entry point activities that Udaan works on are:

1. Real functional toilets

Toilets

Many of girls drop out because the schools do not have proper toilets. Inderjeet and his team worked on ensuring that every toilet in the district has functional toilets that are well-maintained.

2. Clean and well-maintained school building

School interior

One of the first things that we notice about a school is the building. It was important for the team working on this project to ensure that school walls were whitewashed once every six months, and maintained in a clean manner, thus attracting students to come and spend time in them.

3. Welcome signs outside schools

Welcome boards

While this sounds like a small thing, it gave students a sense of ownership towards the school. Each school was given a signage board on which a welcome note was written for the students.

4. Installed full-length body mirrors in all schools

Innovative idea

What this full-length mirror did for the students is remarkable. It created in them a desire to groom themselves and view themselves in a completely different light.

“We can give these students many lectures on personal hygiene and sanitation. However, with some of them never even having looked into a mirror, it was difficult to set a point of reference. Seeing some of the others well turned out pushed them as well,” says Inderjeet.

“These four activities helped us set the tone for what we wish to achieve with these children. It has also been heartening to see some of these being implemented in other Rajasthan districts,” says Inderjeet.

Recognising the villagers as important stakeholders in this programme, the administration holds ‘Shiksha Chopal’ at the gram panchayat level, wherein those students who have done exceedingly well come and motivate the others. Almost 100 such chopals have been organised so far.

Shiksha Chopal

“At these chopals, we hold education fairs and highlight speeches by meritorious girls. Seeing how education can change a life through these activities, the villagers have started donating funds, which we use to upgrade the infrastructure of government schools. Till date Rs 8 crore have been collected from the people, of which we have spent Rs 3.5 crore already,” said Inderjeet.

“The support has been overwhelming, we have had an octogenarian who came forward and donated Rs 35,000, which he withdrew from a fixed deposit just because he believed in this programme and wanted to do his bit,” says Inderjeet.

We wish this programme many more success and hope that other districts also follow suit.

Photo Source: Facebook


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