When mothers become change makers
A group of women of Gutung village in Golaghat district of Assam have formed a Mothers’ Committee to monitor the activities of the primary school in their village. Over a period of time, they have evolved themselves into change makers, and helped the community as well.
“In our village we would see many of the children playing without attending the school. When we asked them the reason, they would say that they don’t like going to school. Also many times we saw that the teachers were not coming regularly. We as a community members wanted to do something to put an end to this” said Deepa Loying Doley, a resident of Gutung village.
In the year 2009, Aide et Action South Asia in partnership with North-East Affected Area Development Society (NEADS), started a project for Mishing Community in Assam. Gutung village was among the many villages where the project was operational. As part of the project, a Mothers’ committee was formed with the mothers of the children attending the school. The committee’s objective was to oversee the operation of the school on a daily basis. The members were trained on several aspects related to monitoring the attendance and personal hygiene of the students.
“If a child is irregular to school, we will get to know through the attendance register checked by us every day in the morning. We try to enquire from other children if the child is ill. If the reasons are different, we would visit the child’s house and talk to the child along with their parents. We would council them about the value of education and how education is important for every person. We try to explain that one needs education even if they become farmers.” said a visibly proud Deepa who feels elated that they are able to influence and convince the community to send their children to the school regularly.
The committee counselling a child and his mother.
The mothers’ committee also ensures that the teachers are punctual to the school. If they are late or absent, the committee members seek explanation from the teacher. If the reason for their absence or late coming is genuine and the teacher informs them in advance, few of the committee members who are +2 pass outs take classes for the students. Meanwhile the other committee members will help in other activities like cutting vegetables, washing utensils for the mid-day meal preparation, watering the school garden, cleaning the premises etc.
Apart from the regular activities, it is interesting to note that the committee is very active in encouraging children to take part in various cultural activities through the Child Club. “We try to inculcate knowledge about our Mishing (tribe) culture in the children. Every saturday, we organize cultural programmes where we encourage the children to perform dance and sing songs. We also share with them knowledge about handicrafts, handloom weaving and food practices. We invite our village elders to our sessions where they share folk stories, agricultural practices, history of the village etc.,” said Kalpana Pegu, a member of the committee. The children are also taken to the nearby forest on a regular basis and are introduced to many medicinal plants.
The weekly cultural event organized at the school.
When the committee noticed that the children in a locality are facing difficulty to study at night to due lack of electricity, they took the issue with the electricity department and ensured that electricity poles are erected and connections are sanctioned.
The formation of the mothers’ committee is not only helping in access to quality education of the children in the village but also the community. They created awareness within the community to gain access to various health and social entitlements. “We often meet our Panchayat president and other government officials taking up the issues related to the school. In this process, we came to know that there are many government schemes for the poor. So we try to help the community members in need of any such services” said Hunuti Doley, a member of the committee who recently got elected as the village panchayat vice-president. She completely attributes her political entry to the committee.
Chandra Kiran Katta, Manager – Communication, Aide et Action International South Asia.