Narsinghpur: Rahul Kushwaha was in Class IV when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020. His school — the Tumda Primary School in Madhya Pradesh’s Narsinghpur district — stopped classes. Kushwaha was promoted to Class V without an exam.
“Several of my classmates and I lost interest in studies,” he said, adding, “Our parents would ask us to study every day. But with no teacher, how could we study on our own? There are some subjects for which we need a teacher.”
Kushwaha was told that online classes would be conducted by the school. “But, we do not have good phones or internet at home,” he rued.
Students like Kushwaha had been drifting away from education, until a teacher from Tumda Primary School teacher, Halkeveer stepped in to mitigate this gap.
Armed with a brush and paint, he illustrated the syllabus from the textbooks all over the village, including the walls of his students’ houses.
A stroke of education
For the younger children, he painted alphabets and numbers. For the senior ones, he spent days together illustrating the map of India along with the details of the states, painting information on freedom fighters and drawing mathematical diagrams.
Numerals painted on stairs (Picture courtesy of Pankaj Gupta)
The effort was a necessity for Halkeveer as his proposition to visit the students’ homes to teach were stalled by the parents. They further put their foot down when he proposed that children gather at one place so that he could get them up to speed with the syllabus.
“In such a situation, I brought education to their homes,” he said. “Whether it is the courtyard outside the house or the walls of the village, everywhere I have tried to give them ample opportunities to read and learn.”
Halkeveer took the symbolic approach. Besides painting the syllabus on the walls, he also took the pots, pans and other objects that were lying around idly in the surroundings and inscribed alphabets and other matter onto them.
“We turned things around the house into the medium of education – whether it is a place to tie a goat or a cow or a swing,” he said.
He used connotations — on certain objects, he wrote what the objects meant and what their significance was so that the children could acquire knowledge on the go.
This omnipresent education, he claimed, retained the interest of children. “They can study while they play. And with this effort, I have seen children being drawn towards education again. I have seen them teach their classmates or at least gently coax them to take up studies again,” he said.
And, it has brought a difference to the children’s lives who now learn as they play.
Studies on the go
Rahul Kushwaha, who studies in Class V at the Tumda Primary School, is ecstatic with his “guruji”, Halkeveer’s effort. “He wrote English and Hindi letters, explained triangles and quadrilaterals and even mathematical sums. Now, we study as we play. One day in a week, we students gather at one person’s house and finish our syllabus. We are happy and so are our parents,” he said.
Kushwaha’s grandmother, Khusiya Devi Kushwaha, said she was impressed with Halkeveer’s effort as he brought education to the students with limited resources.
Lessons have been painted onto any available surface in order to keep the children interested and engaged (Pictures courtesy of Pankaj Gupta)
“The children keep reading as they play. Guruji’s (Halkeveer’s) efforts have instilled them with a new passion, who are now eager to learn,” he said.
Another student’s parent, Jeevan Lal Patel lauded Halkeveer for toiling day night with his paint and brush. Patel said that Halkeveer’s “experiment” turned homes into school.
“And, that has been a boon,” he said, adding, “We were unable to send our children to school due to the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, we did not have android phones on which our children could study. Halkeveer changed this picture. Our children are now being groomed for the future.”
Rahul Khemaria, who once studied at Tumda Primary School, also believes that Halkeveer’s “innovative efforts” will strengthen students’ foundation on which “they can build their future”.
“If Halkeveer’s line of thought is followed by at least by one teacher from every village, India could see a new revolution,” he said. “In this era, we cannot simply era on textbook knowledge. We need symbolic education — students must understand what they are learning and be able to implement it in their course of life.”
Lok Sabha member of parliament Uday Pratap Singh from Hoshangabad constituency has also noticed Halkeveer’s effort. He, too, believes that every teacher from the country can take a cue from his passion and innovation.
“He has adapted school to homes. Halkeveer’s positive thinking is clearly visible in his effort — it has left a unique impression on the whole village,” he said, adding, “Optimistic thoughts can give a new direction to the society. It can do wonders when it is turned into creation.”
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