How a member of the Gram Panchayat became a catalyst for community involvement in education.
Mr. Srinivas, an alumnus of the Government Higher Primary School in Hennagara as well as a member of the Hennagara Gram Panchayat, has always been motivated to give back to his community.
Having completed his education within the government school system, he had always thought that only if the schools had at least the basic facilities would the community or the people in the village admit their children to the government schools. He remembered that during his own days in school, he didn’t have access to a rooftop or even proper flooring.
The impetus for his active involvement in the school came when the GHP school faced closure because of the decreasing strength. Enrolment-related closures were happening not just in Hennagara, but across the state and the country as well. Srinivas realized that if the school was shut down, the students would have to walk for another 2-3 km to attend the closest school. “When the school is right next door, why would the students walk for 2-3 km for a school? This might result in dropouts because of the distance,” he said.
Mr. Srinivas’ involvement came from a sense of deep ownership of the school. “It was the school I studied in,” he said. “If I don’t fight for the school who else will?”
Mr. Srinivas’ level of commitment to improving schools is unusual. While managing some aspects of education is a constitutionally-mandated part of the Gram Panchayat’s role, this rarely translates into practice. In Mantra’s initial needs analysis conducted across our clusters in Bangalore, both awareness of the Gram Panchayat’s role and funding, as well as general community involvement, were low.
Similar insights have been recorded from different parts of the country. A paper studying the Panchayati Raj systems in Madhya Pradesh came to the following conclusion:
“It has been found that while Panchayati Raj Institutions are generally entrusted with the responsibility of recruitment, transfer, and decision-making [for schools], they face inadequacy of capacity-building programs for them; while participation of the local community in school management is increased to a great extent, lakhs of children are still out-of-school; and that there is hardly interface between Panchayati Raj Institutions and the Parent-Teacher Associations at school level. Coordination between Panchayati Raj Institutions and various bodies of educational administration at district, block, and habitation levels has also been a major concern.” (Tyagi, p.94)
In Hennagara, however, Gram Panchayat members like Mr. Srinivas were ensuring that schools continued to function and improve. Mr. Srinivas reached out to his head, Mr. Keshava Reddy, to make sure the school wasn’t shut down and that it was brought under the surveillance of the Gram Panchayat. With the new GP office being constructed at the old location of the school, the school was constructed right next to the Gram Panchayat office building.
Sourcing funds and resources
One of Mr. Srinivas’ biggest accomplishments was mobilizing funds for the schools. His contacts within the nearby factories and corporates were more than happy to offer funds, as a few of their employee’s children also studied in the same school. And the community also played a vital part in mobilizing funds for the school.
When the results began to manifest in GHPS, he began to think about expanding his impact: “When we can help one government school why can’t we help the other schools in the same locality?”
From this point on, there was no looking back.
Roping in the Gram Panchayat of Hulimangala as well, the Gram Panchayat members continued to work for school improvement: they helped schools in their overall development and maintenance as per the school’s specific requests. The GP made sure to take up these requests within 2-3 days.
The GP also opened their offices up to the schools: the recently-elected student council of a school had the chance to visit the Gram Panchayat office and represent their leadership prowess in front of the Gram Panchayat members.
The Gram Panchayat also helped the schools mobilize funds for the enrolment drive and summer camps. “Why should only the posh private schools have summer camps? All are students and they deserve to be treated in the same way,” said Mr. Srinivas.
|Gram Panchayat in Hennagara Cluster: In Numbers|
₹5000 Caps for Enrollment campaign: Hulimangala GP
₹9870 Podu Painting: Hulimangala GP
₹10000 Summer camp snacks: Hennagara GP
₹10000 Enrollment campaign banners and handbills: Hennagara GP
₹10000 Enrollment campaign banner and handbills: Hulimangala GP
₹15000 Plants for Maragondanahalli Scholl: Hulimangala GP
₹15000 Stationery for Summer Camp: Hulimangala GP
Thinking about schools across the cluster allowed Mr. Srinivas to widen the impact of his leadership, as well as welcome more stakeholders in this transformation journey.
As the geography of the GP’s impact widened, members of a few SDMCs began to get involved. The Gram Panchayat was able to associate with the SDMC of the schools, as a few of them are of the same alumni network. A few of the school alumni and the Gram Panchayat members have admitted their children to the schools they have studied so as to have the accountability of the school improvement.
Mr. Muniraj, one of the SDMC members and a school alumnus said, “Only if our children study in the same school we are associated with, we would be conscious of the work we do towards the improvement of the school.”
Looking Toward the Future:
With Mantra4Change getting involved in the cluster in the past year, the Gram Panchayat has had a smoother time with their school improvement ventures:
“Sometimes it gets really tough to manage our time as we get occupied with our official work at the Gram Panchayat. Visiting schools, getting tasks done is something that needs to be monitored regularly,” Mr. Srinivas said. “The Cluster Transformation Leads at Mantra are doing what they do best, facilitating the smooth running of these tasks and ensuring that the job is done by the stipulated time and quality uncompromised.”
Going forward, the GP has plenty of plans. The major infrastructural issue in schools is present that miscreants are damaging the school property and misusing the space for illegal and personal activities. The Gram Panchayat is planning to mobilize funds for installing CCTV cameras at schools so as to catch hold of these miscreants red-handed. Mr. Srinivas has also offered to set up a digital classroom at the Government Higher Primary School, Hennagara.
Contributed by Shreya Shreeraman, Research Desk, Mantra4Change