Adventure in the land of Dhoni and Laloo

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Krishna Ramkumar, Patna, 18 June 2011

I’ve had the most incredible last 3 days travelling through Jharkhand and Bihar. The purpose of my trip was to visit 3 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) which will serve as centres for engineering exam prep for selected JNV students. It has, thus far, been a journey on which the lines between work and leisure have often been blurred.

There have been several fond memories, but my interactions with a few individuals have been extra special. On Day 1, I drove with Pandeyji, Vice Principal of JNV Ranchi from Ranchi to Hazaribagh. En route, he told me about his love for Physics and claimed that he could teach the entire NCERT Class XI and XII syllabus in 15 days each. “Give me 5 hours a day and an attentive class, and I guarantee you, every student will score at least 60%, irrespective of intellectual ability.” The last year, he taught Physics in 3 JNVs due to a shortage of teachers. “100% success rate. Yeh mera record hain”.

The following day, the Maoist Community Centre called a state-wide bandh and we were forced indoors. As we lounged around in JNV Hazaribagh, I asked the Principal Mr. U P Singh if this was a regular occurrence. He responded in the affirmative but said that they normally leave the schools alone as these are sacred institutions. “While I was in Nagaland, the Naxalites were much more powerful. However, every morning, an armed Naxalite himself accompanied me to the school to ensure my safety. They recognized the importance of educating their kids.” Pandeyji then told us about the time when he and a few students were rounded up by a bunch of Naxalites near JNV Gumla. They took his mobile phone but let them go because one of the kids spoke their local dialect. “Hamare bacche hain, chod do.”

Mr. U P Singh then showed me around the school situated in a remote area on 30 acres of lush green surroundings. The school infrastructure was impressive considering the location, but not a patch on good privately-run schools. His biggest challenge – manpower. “We don’t have enough teachers or admin staff. Being remotely located, teachers at the JNVs have to make massive sacrifices for their own families.”

One of the JNV Hazaribagh Physics teachers, Mr. Rajeev accompanied me to Bhagalpur (in Bihar) the following day. As we drove past small towns, one couldn’t help but notice the innumerable billboards shouting out ‘Top quality IIT coaching run by IITian faculty’. As Rajeev put it, only half in jest “Yeh coaching waale sirf dream bhejte hain. Kabhi kabhi hamein lagta hain ki aaj kal IITians ko job nahi mil raha hain, isliye coaching kara rahe hain!” He blamed the parents and society at large for creating a hype around engineering. “People should pursue what they are good at. Not everyone is good at Maths, but every parent in these parts wants their child to be an engineer.”

As we parted ways at the platform of Bhaktiyarpur station, Rajeev left me with these words “Please help children pursue their own dreams. Hum aapko full support denge.”

Road-tripping in the Jharkhand rains

Road-tripping in the Jharkhand rains

Royal treatment at JNV Hazaribagh

Royal treatment at JNV Hazaribagh

Early morning jog at JNV Hazaribagh

Early morning jog at JNV Hazaribagh

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