“Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well. “

-Aristotle

The teacher’s day celebrations on September 05, 2014 brought tidings of overwhelming joy for fifty-five-year-old Bhagirath Singh Mahicha, and the teachers of Government Senior secondary school Dhandhan in Sikar district, of Rajasthan. With his modest school headmaster’s job, Mahicha could not even afford to buy a cycle all his life. When his former students and villagers in Dhandhan in Sikar district, handed him the keys to a white Alto car, he was dizzy with joy.

State governments over the years may have failed to improve educational standards in Rajasthan, but local villagers in Sikar district have set a new precedent through their community initiative. People in Fatehpur village not only hired private teachers for the village school also but honoured the school Principal by gifting him a  brand new Maruti car for taking new initiatives for the school. Going a step ahead, the villagers will also bear the cost of petrol and maintenance of the car for the next three years. About twenty other teachers have also been honored with silver medals.

PPL Bhagirath Singh Mahicha

The sincere efforts of the Principal and teachers have borne fruit by improving the standard of education in the village school, and producing 100 percent pass results. “The school principal was transferred to our village about three years back. In 2011 there were around 300 children in the school and today there are about 1,100 children studying here. With meagre infrastructure and facilities, Mahicha and his team have taken various initiatives and managed to work against all odds. None of the students failed this year,” said Jagdish Sharma, the village sarpanch.

The indifferent attitude of state government towards the village school has been a major worry for villagers and school administration in the past. School Principal Mahicha motivated the villagers to come forward and take joint initiatives to improve the standard of teaching. “Despite repeated requests, the state government failed to fulfill the shortage of teachers in our school. Eventually the villagers hired six private teachers for the school, who are being paid from a fund created by the monthly donations from the villagers,” said Sharma. The satisfied villagers said the government school at Fatehpur today is no less than any private school in terms of infrastructure and resources. Local transporters in village are giving free pick and drop facility to the kids.

Mahicha is a regular school teacher, who rose the ranks from a Grade III faculty to Principal ship, over a period of 20 years, amidst routine transfers and sundry odds of neglected government schools. But he chose to make a difference by putting his heart and soul in his job. In 1984, he joined Dhandhan government secondary school as a Grade III faculty and taught History and Geography until 1993 when he was promoted to the post of headmaster. In 1997 when the school was converted into a senior secondary rank effecting a principal’s post, he was transferred to a nearby secondary school in Jandwa (Churu). In 2000 that school too was upgraded to senior secondary level and Mahicha was again on his way out, this time to nearby Mainasara village in Churu.

In 2004, Mahicha was posted as elementary education officer in Fatehpur Sikar Block. It was in 2009 that Mahicha returned to Dhandhan yet again, this time promoted to the post of a principal. It was a homecoming of sorts. “This is where I had started my career as a teacher with as many as 225 students then in 1984. When I returned in 2009, the number had increased to 442 but the number of teachers and the facilities remained the same,” said Mahicha.

Mahicha confronted the problem of shortage of teachers head on. He refused to stick to the school working hours. “It was not possible for such few teachers to give adequate attention to all the students in the regular school hours. So we worked out special summer classes during the summer vacations and also extra classes late into the night. I must say that the teachers did not grudge the additional work nor did the students,” Mahicha said. While only the weaker students were drawn in for the extra classes initially, the brighter lot voluntarily joined them. “The results are clear for all to see,” beams Mahicha. “The pass percentage in the school has risen remarkably. This year in Science the pass percentage was 98.70 percent while in Arts it was 96 percent. It has remained above 90 percent over the past five years, showing a steady rise. The overall quality of performance too has improved as the number of students securing first division marks has increased,” he added.

At a time when the state’s pass percentage in science is 80 percent and in humanities is around 75 percent, Mahicha’s school has come up as an island of quality education. The school now has students not only from Dhandhan village but also neighbouring districts such as Churu, Jhunjhunu and Nagaur. Local Sarpanch Jagdish Prasad Sharma said, “Students and parents from neighbouring districts have heard about the school’s performance and outstanding academic environment and have come in large numbers to enroll. The locals run a trust, ‘Dhandhan Development Trust Shakti Mandir ‘that actively supports the school Principal’s initiatives. Sharma added that the school also runs a hostel with 30 rooms housing 160 students who have come from neighboring districts.

In an effort to provide better facilities, the school is provided free water supply and the electricity bills are also paid by the Trust. Who would not support such an industrious principal? Even as Mahicha is overwhelmed with all the support, he grapples with a skewed teacher-student ratio. “It must be noted that while the number of students have risen from 442 in 2009 to 1166 now, the number of teachers have remained the same. I think the government should sanction more posts of teachers here “he said.

“Students from this school have gone on to do well in their lives. Some are pursuing engineering, medicine, studying in bigger cities and even abroad. The Principal has worked selflessly for years here and never asked for anything for himself. So we called a meeting of the village elders and decided to gift him something. Two teachers volunteered to collect the donations from villagers. No villager was forced to contribute, but when at the end we counted the total amount, it stood at Rs. 6.50 lakhs,” said Sharma. “We decided to buy a brand new car for the Principal and also foot the fuel and maintenance bills for the next three years. The meritorious students of the school were also rewarded with silver medals weighing 40 grams each. The villagers are so inspired that one of them even volunteered to bear the expenses for the awards given to meritorious students next year already.”

Meanwhile Mahicha’s Alto that flaunts a sticker on its rear windshield announcing it as a gift from ‘All villagers and former students’, has no driver. “I do not know how to drive. So for now my students are driving me around and even refueling it. This is overwhelming,” he smiles.

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