A group of women of Gutung village in Golaghat district of Assam have formed a Mothers’ Committee to monitor the activities of the primary school in their village. Over a period of time, they have evolved themselves into change makers, and helped the community as well. Chandra Kiran Katta explores the amazing results of this unique initiative.
Deepa Loying Doley, a resident of Gutung village, says, “In our village we would see many of the children playing without attending the school. When we asked them the reason, they would say that they don’t like going to school. Also, many times, we saw that the teachers were not coming regularly. We as community members wanted to do something to put an end to this.”
In the year 2009, Aide et Action South Asia, in partnership with North-East Affected Area Development Society (NEADS), started a project, ‘Quality Education for Children of Mishing community in Golaghat, Assam’. The village is among the 20 villages where the project is operational. As part of the project, a Mothers’ Committee was formed with the mothers of the children attending the primary school. The committee’s objective was to oversee the operation of the school on a daily basis.
The members were trained on several aspects related to monitoring the attendance and personal hygiene of the students.
“If a child is irregular to school, we will get to know through the attendance register checked by us everyday in the morning. We try to inquire from other children if the child is ill. If the reasons are different, we visit the child’s house and talk to the child and the parents. We counsel them about the value of education, and how education is important for every person. Most of the time, the parents get convinced and send their child back to school,” said a visibly proud Deepa, who feels elated that they are able to influence the community to send their children to the school regularly.
The mothers’ committee also ensures that the teachers are punctual to the school. If they are late or absent, the committee members seek an explanation from the teacher. If the reason for their absence or lateness is genuine, and the teacher informs them in advance, some of the committee members, who are Class XII pass-outs, take classes for the students. Meanwhile, the other committee members help in other activities, like cutting vegetables, washing utensils for the mid-day meal preparation, watering the school garden, cleaning the premises, etc.
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Apart from the regular activities, it is interesting to note that the committee is very active in encouraging children to take part in various cultural activities through the Child Club. “We try to inculcate knowledge about our Mishing (tribe) culture in the children. Every Saturday, we organize cultural programmes, where we encourage the children to perform dances and sing songs. We also share knowledge about handicrafts, handloom weaving, and food practices with them. We invite our village elders to our sessions, where they share folk stories, agricultural practices, history of the village, etc.,” said Kalpana Pegu, a member of the committee.
The children are also taken to the nearby forest on a regular basis and introduced to many medicinal plants.
When the committee noticed that the children in a locality were facing difficulty in studying at night due to a lack of electricity, they took the issue up with the electricity department and ensured sanctioning of electricity poles and connections.
The mothers’ committee is helping children access quality education, and also creating awareness within the community about access to various health and social entitlements. “We often meet our Panchayat president and other government officials to take up the issues related to the school. Through this process, we came to know that there are many government schemes for the poor. So, we try to help the community members in need of any such services,” said Hunuti Doley. She’s a member of the committee, and recently became the village panchayat vice-president. She attributes her political entry to the Mothers’ Committee.
(The author is a Team Member with Aide et Action International South Asia.)
You can help efforts to reach more marginalized communities by donating to Aide et Action International South Asia here.