After 16 days of initial training in Udaipur, I was informed that I will be placed with ‘Shiksharth’ in Sukma, Chhattisgarh. Moving to a place like Sukma gave me a mixed feeling of excitement, curiosity and a bit of fear. One of the major tasks before I could set out on this journey was to make my family and myself ready for the challenges that I was going to face.
Unaware of the situation in Sukma, I had assumed that I would be in an underdeveloped place or a completely tribal area covered with forest. However, on exploring, I was amused to find that there is an ‘Education City’ in Sukma, spread over 100 acres accommodating 4000 children through various institutions like Aakaar (Special Education School), Sakaar (Training Centre for Higher Education), Science Centre, Livelihood College, Kendriya Vidyalay, DAV High School, Football Academy and Gyanoday.
When Sukma was declared as a district in 2012, it was divided in three blocks – Chhindgarh, Sukma and Konta. Among these three blocks, Konta is massively affected by Naxal Movement, resulting 102 schools to shut down and leaving thousands of children deprived of education. Every child that drops out of school in Sukma is a potential Naxalite recruit. With a motive to bring these children back on the path of education, ‘Gyanoday’ was initiated by District Administration of Sukma. The dropped out children from Konta block are brought here to provide them with best possible education and a childhood they deserve. Their six-month long ‘Back to School Program’ ensures education for these children by implementing new methods in their newly constructed residential campus of in the Education city.
‘Shiksharth’ is a Non Profit Organization promoting education with an approach of delivering quality education solutions to children in Naxal affected Sukma since 2015. It takes care of the academics for children who are bought to Gyanoday. They are in the age group of 6-12, who not only go through an academic program but also get exposure to science, games, movies, computers, sports and various dance forms. Once a batch completes this program, children are sent to Portable Cabins for their further education.
I joined Gyanoday when a batch was in the last phase of their academics and in the middle of their final exams.
These children were comfortable with the environment of Gyanoday and were open to learn new things. They easily accepted me, which I had initially thought to be a major task. An amazing thing about these children was their creativity and artistic side. Every piece made by them included an aspect of nature or surroundings they are brought up in, be it animals or birds or the festivals they celebrate. Their energy level and the curiosity is always on the peak. Within a short period of a month, these children got attached to me. It was difficult for me to say Good Bye!
But, I am excited as the new batch will be joining us soon. One of the biggest challenges that I’m anticipating, would be the language barrier between us. Starting a conversation itself would be a tough task as these children only speak in their local language i.e Gondi or Halbi. To overcome this challenge, I have started learning basics of these languages. It’s not just going to be an opportunity for children, but also for me to Learn, Explore and Experience new things. Look forward to this exciting journey.