HUMANS OF THE FOREST IV - A SUITABLE BOY
In the dense forest among company of animals - elephants, cheetal, snakes, monkeys and many more, a black board is hung on the muddy walls of a 'Chappar' aka hut. This board is a symbol of 'access and availability of education' to children of pastoral nomads in the forest.
Ayub (name changed) is one of the few males among the Van Gujjar community who hold belief in the strength of education as a tool for effective living. Everyday at 5 am he wakes up has a glass of water picks up a bag holding -1. Pencil, 2. Pen, 3. Rubber, 4. Sharpener, 5. Sheets of paper - and starts from his home. As he covers the muddy tracks (3-4 feet wide) he aims to visit the children and their parents to discuss the learning and work to do.
After engaging with the children for years has gathered the courage and collected resources from around him to build a thatched roof room ('Chappar'). The women from the community did the walls and flooring doing 'Gobar Lepna' which is available in abundance in a pastoral community. Now every morning around 8-9 am young children from different ends of the forest walk up to the space to experience and engage with Education.
He manages the learning centre with a strength of 181 children, who visit the learning centre in batches all over the week. Children and their parents fondly call him 'Matter' or ‘Guruji’.
Ayub says, “jab mai yahan se duur shehar ki taraf padhai karne ke liye gaya to ehsaas hua ki duniya bahut tezi se chal rahi hai aur humaara van gujjar samaaj bahut piche hai. Bahar ke logo aur humare beech me bas itna he fark hai ki jungle ke bache shiksha se bahut door hai aur shehar me shiksha ne sabko sashaksht kar dia hai”.
He then decided to introduce the kids with the world of education and the wonders it can do. To fulfil this dream of his, he initiated the conversation among the community and asked the parents to send children to his place.
Ayub recalls, “ shuruwat me bahut kathin tha, kyunki jab mai samaj ki baithak me gaya aur apni arzi pesh ki shiksha ko lekar, to sabhi log hasne lagey. Kuch logo ne mujhe bola ki tum padai kar ke shayad duniyadaari bhool gaye ho. Gujjar bacha yadi padai me lag jaeyga to baaki dangar ke kaam kaun karega?.”
People laughed, people criticised but he didn't stop. Ayub helps the people of his community write applications, assist them to hospitals, and supports the people of his community in every way possible.
samanta & ayub
We have been supporting Ayub with study material, learning kits for the children and have been continuously building his capacity with pedagogical understanding. Children in the learning centre have been engaged with learning through fun/project based activities.
We intend to standby Ayub and all the other with whom Samanta has been working in the last 1 year to build a sustainable community owned plan for change! Stay connected as we frame our work for coming times especially 2021-25 with these ideas as enablers to our larger work on Education for Forest Communities especially!
Tanya & Prashant