7th of March I left for Jatoli (2310mts above sea level) and was sure of the destination but unknown to the journey and the path to be taken. It was a long 3 hours trek, steep rocky pathways, thick forest and you will hardly meet someone on the way. Jatoli cannot be travelled either in the monsoon or in the winter as the road is usually broken. Harsh rain washes away the path or snow blocks it in winter. Jatoli, arcaded by humongous Sundardunga Glacier stands as the last village in the Pindar Valley. The world is just a click away but this village doesn’t have the privilege of electricity. Jatoli has a population of 23 household and the government primary school has a strength of 10 students and 11 Anganwadi students and definitely a single teacher.
I hardly had any clue about with whom I will stay in Jatoli, so had in my mind if no one allows me to stay with them I may have to get back. Trekking in the Pindar valley is not that easy but mother nature never fails to mesmerize.
Then after reaching Jatoli locating my place to stay and to my surprise, the headmaster had to leave the next day because of some important work in the Education Department. To keep the school open, became one of the major responsibility and to experience in the shoes of a single teacher. The approach of each CRI to be activity based and help the children grow leadership qualities by taking ownership in what they are doing in school from assembly to after-school activities. Not only so to link the community to the happiness and well-being of the students. From the second day onwards, I found children wanted to stay in school for extra hours. Students not registered with school or, the secondary students who were having their break after an annual exam, to the girl who did not continue with formal education after class 5, everyone enjoyed their time there.
An SMC meeting leading to a large group meeting attended by every singular person on the notion to create a better learning environment for the children of the village and how could every household support the same. It was pleasant to see the youth of the village coming to school in midst of their daily schedule to participate in the activities with their little brothers and sisters. From a holistic assembly in the morning to classroom activities and the Sunday activities, students started of steering it in their own way with a very little help of mine.
Dhana Devi, Ward Representative and also a mother of two (students of GPS Jatoli) had to spend innumerable evenings with her discussing on the gap areas that need support and that definitely helps to build my perspective. Communication to each and every parent and other stakeholders of the community helped in need analysis and understand the socio-economic situation of the village. Education can just not be restricted to the books and syllabus it is beyond that especially in a place where there is lack of resources, environment and the society starts being a teacher.
I will forever be thankful to Kapil bhaiya and Kalavati didi who made space for me in their place and never made me feel I was away from home in a new place. There is a lot of “I learned” and “I miss”. I learnt to cook food in a clay oven, to cut grass, learn to basics of agriculture, feed cattle and a little bit of cane work. I will definitely miss waking up to the beautiful glacier, outdoor classes with my children. Every day they taught me about a new plant, we played badminton together and had never-ending conversations with Amma (who had none to call family). She made amazing rajma for me and she taught me a lot of Kumauni words. The never-ending conversation with those hardworking women who surely spared time to talk to me and know the world beyond their village and the process left me spellbound with their daily stories. I feel sad about the fact they treated me with so much of warmth. But, I was unable to live up to their request “Ma’am, aap humare gaon mein rook jao, bacche bhi chahte hai”.