Interview of a primary school Principal who ensured cent-percent attendance of studentsI was waiting for the Principal outside his room when an elderly gentleman came out from the teacher's room and wished me. I introduced myself and told him that I had an appointment with the Principal. He guided me inside and told me to wait as the Principal had gone out to meet some parents. "Please wait, sir. He will be back any minute. Since you have the appointment, he won't keep you waiting', he told as he walked away.
In a few seconds, a short structured gentleman walked in smiling. I got up and wished him. Returning the greeting he said, 'I am sorry to have kept you waiting. Shall we start'? and took his seat.
Me: Sir, I consider it my personal honour to have been chosen by our editor to interview you. Congratulations to you sir for achieving this feat of getting every child of this village to attend classes daily. And what better it can be than to begin the interview by asking you how you managed to do it. Sir, it would be nice if you could include the situation when you joined here.
He: As you can see, this is a very small village and the people here are basically farmers. The total strength of this school as of now is 200 students. It was almost the same when I joined but the problem was that most of the students were not regular. I knew it was a difficult task to ensure daily attendance of all the students but I took it on as my responsibility, not to the school or to myself but to the society. I, with the support of other teachers and also our non-teaching staff, had to do a lot of homework and spadework before getting into the job. Making the parents understand the importance of their wards joining the school and attending the classes and convincing them was not easy. More difficult was to force the students who have been habituated to skipping classes to attend school without fail. The situation and circumstances were such that it could not be done in a day. I had to take steps to improve the infrastructure and facilities of the school first.
Me (interrupting): Sorry to interrupt you but I would also like to know how the authorities helped you?
He (smiling): To be frank, convincing the authorities was more difficult than convincing the parents and students. I had to contact so many people and had to go and meet them quite often. In the beginning, they were sort of amused at my enthusiasm and probably thought that I was trying to prove myself since this was my first posting as the Principal. It took a lot of time and efforts to make them understand that my aim was to ensure that the students who have enrolled in the school should not be refused the opportunity to learn. I met the DEO many times and forwarded letters to the higher authorities, including the State Minister for Education, through proper channel. I was lucky in that the local authorities and the MLA representing the constituency of which this village is a part grew up to be supportive after the initial hesitation. Once the infrastructure and facilities including filling up of teachers vacancies were put in place, I could manage to enhance the interest of the students as well as parents and the attendance rate gradually improved and today, as you all know, this is one of the few schools in such rural areas which has almost cent-per cent attendance daily.
Me: I agree with you, sir. Convincing our authorities is indeed a tough job. What is the attitude of the parents now? And how about the quality of students?
He: We cannot blame the parents. Most of them are illiterate. And since they are earning their daily bread through farming and other small chores they are not really bothered about the education part. They think that if they could live comfortably without education, their children can also very well do so without much education. Even those few who are aware of the benefits of educating their children think that it is beyond their capacity to send the kids for higher education and some even maintain that earning a job is not easy for people like them. So, our primary effort was to convey that their perceptions were wrong. We had to open the world to them to see.
As far as the students are concerned, they never took school or studies seriously. For them, it was just a part of their routine. And I am sorry to say that teachers posted to schools like this are also to be blamed. Most of them consider their posting to rural areas to be punishments and do not show any interest in their profession. Lack of the sufficient number of teachers and those available making it a habit to skip classes do have negative effects on the students too. Only dedicated teachers and those who have a passion for this profession can actually tempt the students to attend classes regularly and to develop an interest in studies. My experience says that once the students start feeling that the teachers are serious and they are putting in efforts to teach them and that it is being done for their good, the students will naturally become dedicated. See, it is like a chain. Teachers and staff of the school, parents, students, the local authorities, senior citizens and all of us have a role to play. You have to ensure that it does not break in between.
After a few more questions I thanked him for sparing his valuable time and bid him a good day. Before saying goodbye he reminded me to put a photograph of the school along with the interview when it is published.
(Entry for Academic quadrathlon contest- Event 3)