Fri. Jun 14th, 2024
Darvesh Karim

It is said that many factors are involved and helpful for educational development and enhancement of any school, among them are equal opportunities for children to learn, strong leadership and availability of teaching staff to run the school smoothly, initiating effective curricular activities as well as extra-curricular educational activities, parental trust, and their involvement; and to ensure it, the presence of an active SMC, which always ready to help the school keeping in view the needs of school all the time. If all these factors continuously are available to a village school or a city school throughout the year, then there is no reason why the school should not develop, the children should not get quality education, and the school should not become a quality institution.

Figure 1:  The remotest and climatically harsh, but the most beautiful village of District Astore, Gilgit-Baltistan

For the past three years, I have been involved in an educational project working on the girls right to participate in education in the backward and far-flung areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. The project was implemented during the academic year 2018-2019 in the remotest areas of two districts in Gilgit-Baltistan, District Ghanche and District Astor. An intensive plan was developed to help improve education in public sector schools of this mountainous region. The specific objectives of the project were to enhance the physical appearance of schools and to make the teaching-learning process more effective, as well as to increase social mobilization and ensuring parental involvement in school activities. A comprehensive strategy was formulated to achieve these objectives including training of teachers, formation of SMC/MSG and training opportunities to hone their skills, provision of educational resources, sports kit, and carpets with an underlay for the students to sit on the floor comfortably as schools were lacking furniture.

Figure 2: The demo lesson, while the schoolteachers so passionately observing the class

The overall effects of this educational project interventions are now beginning to be seen in schools, as they have displayed for the first time self-made School Development Plans and teachers have been trying to follow it since the commencement of the academic year. In addition to the educational activities, special attention is paid to parental involvement. As a result, the role of parents and the community in project schools is growing, and home-school relationships are developing significantly. We understand that the whole village, the surrounding environment, and the support/cooperation of the parents play an important role in the success of a child. In simple words, family, community, and school support is always important for a child’s development. When family members, community and school join in the support, students improve their academic performance and learning outcomes. Community involvement has always been the focus of attention for schools, and the said project also focused on the key segment of society to improving educational standards. However, the participation level has always been different in different contexts. Some schools have been very successful in the community engagement process, while others need more effort to succeed. If schools are successful in engaging the community, they can improve students’ learning outcomes as well as their day-to-day routines and learning processes.

I often had the opportunity to go to schools to work on the same project and have got exposure working with different communities. I once happened to go to the only primary school in a remote village in the beautiful district of Astore in Gilgit-Baltistan. I had to stay for a whole school day to perform some activities. It was a wonderful and memorable day I spent there. I think the environment, the activities, and the educational scene that was witnessed in the school was certainly ideal. If the same atmosphere and activities sustain and continue for the development of the school, it can certainly emerge as one of the best schools in the area.

Figure 3: Meeting with teachers

It was the pleasant month of May right after the winter chill which was continued since October and the layers of snow had recently cracked and melted. Winters in this area usually start from October, snow and coldness prevail till April. Thus, the area remains harsh for almost seven months of the year. Farming and other livelihood activities start from May when the beauty of spring used to be at its peak. It was a sunny day, and the faint heat of the sun was warming the earth and the bodies. The taste of sitting in the sun in this weather is difficult to express in suitable words.  So, all the elders, male and female of the village were out of their houses enjoying the sunshine and its warmth, while some were engaged in farming in the fields. Since there was a shortage of classrooms in the primary school, the teachers had also arranged classes for all the children outside in the sun and the teaching-learning process was continued while enjoying the sun. With this environment, I reached the school. I already knew the teachers and the children, so they gave me a warm welcome.

Figure 4: Students in pairs to work on an art competition.

My tour to this school had several purposes. The main purpose was to conduct an art competition among the children, secondly, I had to observe one or two teachers’ classes, who had attended the training during winter break. The environment was conducive to achieve these goals. So, I teamed up with the teachers to select some students from class 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades who showed a willingness to take part in the drawing competition. Drawing material were given to students to draw according to their imagination on a particular topic. Then I observed the classes of the concerned teachers and gave them feedback. By then the educational environment and teaching-learning process of the school had become so attractive that I called other teachers to observe a demo lesson given by me. Due to the lack of classrooms, we had already introduced multi-grade teaching to the teachers. Therefore, it was much effective to arrange a demo lesson by combining the students of class II, III, IV and V.

Figure 5: The Community’s active involvement to help school management to fix the underlay and carpet.

Being a small village, the news of my arrival had reached homes. So, some parents and SMC members also visited the school. Due to the lack of furniture for children in the school, a few days back we had provided underlay and carpet as a missing facility. The parents came to help the teachers to lay-flat that carpet and underlay in classrooms. As soon as they arrived, they started measuring the classes, then began to cut and install the carpet. School had then a mixed learning environment and atmosphere by involving all the stakeholders that on one hand the children are engaged in drawing and on the other hand the teachers are busy with teaching, co-teaching, and demo lessons. We all, (teachers, parents, SMC members, and myself) were probably thinking at times that, how can we increase the understanding and awareness of the children as much as possible? How can we all facilitate them to learn according to our own level best? How can we help, so that they can get good education, and learn something new?

When the parents and SMC members have completed their task, taking advantage of this opportunity, I arranged a meeting with them to discuss the project activities and other matters of concern. It was an outstanding session in which we interacted on the importance of education, the importance of health and hygiene, and supervising schoolwork at home. Meanwhile, I used to go to the children who were busy in drawing and continued to provide them with support and guidance in their work. Finally, a meeting with all the teachers was conducted in which we discussed how to further improve and strengthen the school education system; how to make parental involvement more effective and sustained; how to improve the teaching methodology in the classroom keeping MGT in mind. Then I collected the drawings from the students, thanked them for their enthusiastic participation in the activity. I could feel the happiness and satisfaction of the children. I thought it was the most fruitful day for me and for the school as a whole.  When I was leaving the school after completing all the activities, the words of a young girl, who participated in the drawing competition, made me even happier. The girl asked me, “Sir, I had a lot of fun at school today. When will you come again, sir?” Feeling the sparkle of these magical words in my heart, I left the school and the beautiful village with a feeling of satisfaction, thanked all the teachers and children, and happily left towards hotel which is about an hour drive away.

Figure 6:  Students with their creative work

By Darvesh Karim

The author is an educationist and working as a Senior Instructor at the Aga Khan Univeristy.

3 thoughts on “A DAY WELL SPENT”
  1. Working in these harsh environments is very difficult, but rewarding experience.
    very well written. More power to you Dervesh

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