Suman Devi: Inspiring Mohalla Classes in Raebareli

Suman Devi: Inspiring Mohalla Classes in Raebareli

In the last 18 months, when schools were closed, teachers were roped in for Covid duty. In fact, nearly 1621 primary school teachers in Uttar Pradesh died of COVID-19 after being assigned duty in Panchayat polls and control rooms. If teachers were left to just do their job i.e. teach they could have helped a lot more in ensuring that children were not left out due to the digital divide. For instance, they could help run the mohalla classes. Just like Suman Devi.

Suman Devi is the head teacher of the primary school at Kallu ka Purva, an urban hamlet in the Raebareli town area. During COVID-19 when schools were closed, she visited families of students, was in constant touch with them and then engaged youth volunteers to run mohalla classes so that enrolled children did not become out-of-school children. With youth volunteers, she managed to run two mohalla classes in Kallu Ka Purva and Jafar Nagar where around 50-60 children attended regular classes through the pandemic.

Suman Devi has been felicitated by the state on several occasions for her excellent contribution to education. When she took charge in 2012, 95 children were enrolled in the school; today there are 165 students. As pointed out earlier on the importance of female teachers in school, her presence, effort and emphasis on girl child education bore fruit. This despite the fact that there were only two female teachers win the school. She counselled parents to send their daughters to school. Moreover, she also encouraged  girls’ leadership in student collectives in the school.

She focussed on bringing children to school with the help of School Management Committee (SMC) members and engaging with children through re-creational activities such as games and activity-based teaching. She worked on ending discrimination among children and promoted equitable learning environment in the school. She developed teaching learning materials (TLMs) in consultation with teachers and students. She has helped children develop a kitchen garden in the school and with great success. In fact, teachers end up using flowers and the plants as useful TLM!

Teacher Suman Devi, as she is fondly called, has very effectively engaged with the SMCs — they helped decorate the school, construct the boundary wall, and even develop a nice playground for the children.

There are many like Suman Devi across the country who are continuously striving to provide better education despite all odds. And this includes the lack of teachers. In Raebareli town area, there are 51 schools and only 68 teachers; there are 37 primary schools which has 32 teachers. Three primary schools are being managed by head teachers of upper primary schools and two schools i.e. primary schools at Munshiganj and Khaspari have no teachers and remain locked. In UP, there is vacancy for over 70,000 teachers in elementary school. 

The appointment of teachers on the vacant posts, providing training to teachers and deploying female teachers in all schools has been a constant demand of the State Collective for Right to Education (SCoRE), UP’s RTE network. And the demands must be met now as schools gradually reopen. 

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