Jayanti Mandingi, of Patamanda in Narayanpatna Block in Odisha, does her Class 12th in Arts. Her parents, Godru and Kone Mandingi are small farmers and daily wage labourers in the mountains. Their earnings are insufficient to meet the needs of 6 members in their family. Jayanti is second daughter among 4 children. Education gets a lower priority in this area where Kuvi, a language with no script is the mother tongue. It’s a challenge for children to study in Odiya medium from their lower classes.
Jayanti has a creditable recognition as the only girl of Patamanda village who has crossed Class 10. After returning from her school, she rushes to her role as the Teacher-cum-Facilitator of the Mind-to-Read Centre of Operation Sahay Foundation in their village. This is one of the 12 village-centric learning centres established by OSF. The centre has a library and regular brush-up classes are conducted for children to retain their reading, foundational math and concepts. The schools are shut owing to Covid-19 for many months. A Feb2021 report by Azim Premji Foundation observes the detrimental impact – School closure due to COVID-19 pandemic has led to complete disconnect from education for the vast majority of children or inadequate alternatives like community-based classes or poor alternatives in the form of online education, including mobile phone-based learning. Equally alarming is the widespread phenomenon of ‘forgetting’ by students of learning from the previous class – this is regression in their curricular learning.
Jayanti is clear why she took up this challenge of teaching even when she is a student – “since my brothers and sisters were without any guidance and nobody were there to take care of their academics, schools remain closed. This compelled me to help them. By the same time OSF has given a scope for it, so I wanted to use the scope for the betterment of our children.” She adds “In the beginning I was scared of this work, but now I am fine. For me I feel this is a scope to develop myself. Before teaching I have to prepare myself. I get to read many books now. Through this work my knowledge and outlook is getting developed.”
The honorarium she is getting from OSF is a great support for her own education as well.
Rani Meleka lives in Tikarapada village in Koraput District. She couldn’t get proper education in her childhood. Husband is a tractor driver and they have young child. His job is farm dependent and so it’s a seasonal income for the family. Often, it’s a struggle to keep the family afloat.
Operation Sahay Foundation opened a skill development centre near to their village. Rani joined the centre to learn stitching with an intent to have a consistent source of income. It was a little difficult to learn tailoring with her meagre educational background but coped up with the help of a perseverant teacher and hard work. Now she has successfully completed the course and earned a certificate. She and her family are happy as she bought a machine with some savings and is now stitching clothes.
Rani specializes in blouses and all ladies’ garments. She gets 5-6 customers a week from the villages near her. Now she is able to earn roughly Rs.1200 a week. This is a big boost to her family income. She says “I am grateful to OSF for providing the tailoring training near my village. It supported me financially and owing to this I am able to fulfill the needs of my family being able to stitch my own clothes and other’s clothes as well.”
Radhika Himeraka is from Bada Bankidi in Koraput District in Odisha. Her parents passed away in her childhood. At that time, she couldn’t get proper schooling and now she lives with her sister in the village. She was a daily wage laborer.
Radhika has successfully finished a tailoring training course which was organized in their village by Operation Sahay Foundation. “I am very thankful to OSF. Because I have no parents, I was uneducated and was unworthy to join the training but OSF provided the tailoring course in my village!”
Now she does part-time tailoring and gets about 3 customers a week from her village. She is able to stitch ladies’ dresses, blouses, kids wear and work on old clothes. It is an alternate source of income and Radhika could cut-down on the hard work as a field-laborer. On her future plans – “I would like to start a tailoring centre, perhaps with some of my friends.
Balancing Weighing Imbalance
In Narayanpatna block of Odisha, farmers from Tentulipadar and Bijaghati Mandal (Gram Panchayats) villages used to sell their farm products in the Narayanpatna market. Each farmer visits the weekly market with his produce four times a month on an average.
During each visit, they carry 30 to 50 kg harvested products .Weighing is done at the market. They suspected a tampered weighing machine was being used by the middlemen. This continued for many years. As most of the farmers are illiterate, they couldn’t verify or resolve this.
OSF, while working on the School Kit project to encourage attendance in schools at the region, we learned about this issue and planned a simple intervention. 2 weighing scales of 100 Kg capacity were presented to the farmers group. Village youth are assigned the responsibility to weigh the farm products for every farmer. The weight is recorded on a slip and the farmer presents it at the Mandi. The middlemen are now forced to go by the actual weight.
The benefit reaches about 450 families. Mr. Gopi Bingadika a farmer in the region says “In a month, I get an additional Rs.50-100, which is a big thing for my family.” This works out to approximately Rs.27,000 worth of savings to the community in a month.
Closure to School Closure Plans
“This school has less than 20 kids now. There’s an order to shut the school as the number is well below the cut-off level fixed by the Government. Can you do something? I see that you arranged for good School Kits through OSF in few other schools. If you can do a distribution here, maybe, we can encourage the kids as a last attempt to continue schooling.” These were the words of Mr.Niranjan Bagha of Narayanpatna education block.
Panabadi Village is a quiet community of 65 families, who are passionate farmers in the mountains. They practice slash and burn agriculture. The entire family including children participate. Parents therefore don’t see much value in schooling.
OSF arranged and distributed the School kits at a meeting iwhich was well attended by the village families. In the program, the necessity of education, regular attendance and completing education diligently was stressed by social worker, Mr.Ananta and the HM. The parents were apprised on the significance of sending children to school. Each child was presented a School kit. The school kits became a hit. “We saw an immediate change – the very next day onwards, more than 30 children started coming to school. I reported this to the Narayanpatna Block EO.” With 50% more than the benchmark level, this OSF initiative put a happy closure to the closure plans! The children still continue and the school is all alive