Kumbharshila is a village five kilometers from Kashipur block headquarters in Odisha. It is one of the twenty-five villages where Agragamee has started learning centers since April 2020. Unlike Kumbharshila, most of these villages are far away from the block headquarters in isolated areas and do not have schools running since April 2020. Students in most of these villages have learning centers as the only way to come together and study. A local youth is selected as a teacher and trained on education, development, rights, and even farming activities. The teacher teaches at the learning center daily for three hours with the methods taught by Agragamee and implemented in the Agragamee school. The organization also provides logistics support like solar light, pens, books, Teaching Learning Material (TLM), blackboard, etc.
I interviewed six of these students, from class 4 and 5. They were really shy. The interviews were conducted in Odiya and have been translated into English. Local words are in italics.
What’s your name?
Which village are you from?
All of them: Kumbharshila
In which district and state is the village located?
Basanti: I do not know which state but the district’s name is Rayagada
And which block?
All of them: Kashipur
Tell me something about your village
Rubita: We have two wells in the village
Basanti: 3 wells
Muskan: And 3 ponds. We also have a lot of mountains in our village.
Dharitri: We have a lot of birds and animals in the village, and plants and trees
Rubita: We live in different Sahi (side of the village). I live in Harijan sahi.
Who else lies there?
Rubita: Muskan, Dharitri and Manas
Basanti: I also live in Kumbhar sahi
And you, Chumki? How many sahis are there in the village?
Chumki: I live in Majhi sahi
(Kids start discussing among themselves and came up with different answers like 2,3,5 and 6. They reached a consensus and gave their final answer as 3 by naming the sahis)
Which are some of the neighbouring villages?
Manas: Ratapada, Kalakani, Shilagan, Bhagamunda
Rubita: Jhirigan, Taljhiri, Mainkanch
Muskan: Silagan, Kashipur, Parjashila
Dharitri: Gouda sahi (in Kashipur), Lakmipadar, Champajhodi, Dumel, Renga
Dharitri: It is not a village.
Muskan: Phatamunda, Kutrujhiri, Tikiri, Rayagada, Jhirigan, Ratapada
Basanti: Katali, Podabandh, Bhogamunda
(Kids repeat some names and also start naming villages which they have visited in the past)
How old are you?
Manas and Muskan: 10
Rubita and Basanti: 9
Chumki: I am 10 years old (shies away and laughs)
Which school do you study in?
Manas: JayKaypur School
Rubita: I study in a school in Rayagada. Degree college hostel.
Muskan, Chumki and Basanti: I study in Agragamee school in Kashipur
Rubita: You are scared (to Basanti)
Dharitri: I study in an English medium school in Kashipur. Adarsha School.
English medium or Odiya medium?
(Kids started telling all the languages they have at school. When Rubita answered English, other kids started telling their favorite subjects. I explained the question.)
Manas, Rubita and Dharitri: English
Muskan, Basanti and Chumki: Odiya
Which grade are you in?
Manas, Rubita and Chumki: 4th
Muskan and Basanti: 5th
Where are you studying since the lockdown? Do you go to school?
(Kids say that they are not going to school. They go to tuition at Kumbharshila, Majhi sahi. Tikimoni Naik, the teacher, who is from Kumbharshila, understands and teaches in the local language as well as Odiya. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts. They also go to another tuition in their village. There is a school but kids study where we were sitting in Majhi sahi of the village. The school is being rented out by a private tuition teacher.)
Rubita: This place belongs to a man from Majhi sahi. I used to go for tuition in the hostel itself when I was in Rayagada.
What do you learn at the school/learning center?
Rubita: Didi teaches us different lessons from the book (Kau Dake Ka)
(Kids refer to Tikimoni, their teacher, as didi)
Dharitri: English, Odiya, Environmental studies, Language, Grammar
(They randomly start discussing directions like East, West and point where each direction is)
Basanti: We come, clean the place and offer prayers.
Dharitri: On some days we play, dance and sing
Chumki: We study and sometimes play, sing and dance
Muskan: We play on Sundays.
Rubita: We play rumal chori.
Tell me something about your teacher
Chumki: Our didi teaches us to study and dance.
Dharitri: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, LCM, GCD
Muskan: Numbers from 1 to 100
Manas: One digit number, Two-digit number
Muskan: Next numbers, middle numbers, previous numbers
Which songs do you sing there? Do you dance?
Rubita: We sing and dance to Desia songs
Basanti: Chaka Chaka Bhounri.
Dharitri: Sapna bahuveda, Chup muna chup
Rubita: Ame chala badi ku jiba
Muskan: Rail gadi chuku chuku
Chumki: Jio tie tiki jio tie
Basanti: *starts singing jio tie tiki jio tie *
(We all agreed that we would sing songs at the end of our discussion and dance as well)
Rubita: Gol matol bhalu
(Kids start singing again and complete a song. We then continue our discussion)
What about dance?
Muskan: We all are learning to dance
Basanti: We dance to Desia songs
(They say that Chumki and her friends are good at Demsa, a local dance form)
Rubita: Didi teaches us to dance and we follow
What do you do in your free time?
Muskan: I help my mother to do household work
Rubita: I do both
Dharitri and Chumki: We study and play
What do you play?
Manas: Luka chupi, marbles
Basanti: Bahu chori, chudi
Muskan: Cricket, Kabaddi
Dharitri: Race, basketball, chudi
Rubita: Panch garya
Do you miss school?
(All exclaim yes)
Basanti and Muskan: I miss my school friends and teachers
What is your favourite food?
Rubita: Rice, Dal, saga, patra gobi, gobi bhoja
Muskan: Potato bhoja, cauliflower
Basanti: Dal and rice, potol bhoja
Dharitri: Bhendi bhoja, aloo
Chumki: aloo bhoja
What is your favourite colour?
Rubita: Blue, white, pink, red
Basanti: White, yellow
What festivals do you celebrate?
Muskan: Tentuli festival
Basanti: Aamba parba/Chait parab, saraswati pooja, kali parba. We offer coconut to gods during the festivals
Dharitri: We celebrate Rath Jatra, Ganesh pooja. We eat meat, dal and rice.
Chumki: No, I do not know *shies away and starts laughing*
Rubita: We celebrate Durga pooja, Thakurani pooja. During these festivals, we cook pita, saga, meat, dal rice, bhoja, Khiri. We have fun and go home.
Muskan: We dance and sing during the festivals. We also watch cartoons.
Which cartoons do you watch?
Muskan: Little singham
Basanti: I like Notia and Jan ka Don
Dharitri: Little Singham, Notia and Motu patlu.
Rubita: Snake boy and Bhalu
Can you write your name?
Rubita: In English or Odiya?
Basanti: I cannot write in English
Tell me something about your family
Rubita: Our family has 11 members. Grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, uncle, aunt, uncle, aunt, brother, sister and me
Chumki: My family has 7 members. Mom, dad, younger brother, younger sister, elder sister, me
Muskan: 7 members. Grandfather, grandmother, brother, 3 sisters and me
Dharitri: 12 members. Mother, father, 3 brothers, Grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, uncle, aunty
Basanti: 4 members. Brother, mother, father and me
Manas: 7 members. Mom, dad, brother, 2 sisters, grandmother
Who is your best friend?
Rubita: Rani, Muskan, Sweety, Gedli
Muskan: Rubita, Gedli, Sweety, Jyotsna, Basanti, Swapna, Mamta, Shalini
Manas: Karan, DJ Alok
Basanti: Sabita Kumbhar, Sapna Kumbhar, Muskan Naik, Rubita Naik, Gedli Naik, Khiramani Kumbhar
Dharitri: Muskan, Shriya, Adhyasa, Rubita, Pinaki, Debi, Lipsa, Chandni
Chumki: Manjua, Deepali, Sukanti, Sebati, Kalimani, Jayanti, Gedli
(I find out that Dharitri’s nickname is Gedli)
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Muskan, Chumki and Basanti: Doctor
Rubita and Manas: Scientist
(We end the interview and start singing songs followed by Demsa)