Monday, 11 January 2016

Meet Praveen Sinha!
An Out of the Box Educator from Giridih, Jharkhand

[LOTB comes across exemplary educators working under trying circumstances, lack of infrastructure and around intense cynicism and de-motivation. Yet, they become shining bright stars of their schools and communities and bring about a positive change. ‘Out of the Box Educator’ is a series to document the silent successes of such educators]

--Anurag Shukla
(Anurag manages the Learn, Out of the Box programme in Jharkhand)

A dilapidated construction surrounded by crumbling blocks, depleting student strength and a group of de-motivated teachers greeted Praveen Kumar Singh a few years back when he joined GMS Mahatma Gandhi school in Giridih-Jharkhand.

Praveen immediately called for a meeting of the community members without being daunted by the challenges. He discussed about the possible corrective measures that could be taken and asked them to join hands and contribute. His clear thought, simple demands and exceptional past record prompted many in the community to back him. Praveen brought some key changes to the
school infrastructure with active support of some organizations. Next, he constituted a decision making body within the school and made teachers part of it, thus giving them ownership. Other teachers were assigned other important responsibilities in running the school. In spite of his administrative engagements, Praveen decided to teach daily and organized a capacity building workshop for teachers on efficient utilization of existing resources in school. A student body was also created and students were assigned defined tasks with girls given equal representation.

Within a year, the enrollment of the school tripled and the current strength stands at more than five hundred. As the previous problems were resolved, some others cropped up but the bright spot of the school has been focus on learning by engaging the students, teachers and the community. Every morning the students eagerly await their head master who talks to them about a new topic every day. Students like coming to school and some of them keep coming back even after passing out.

One morning, an odd sight greeted the students as they rushed inside the school: a plastic covered bust was placed in the center of the playground. Praveen asked the students to guess the great man wrapped. The student who guessed correctly would get to inaugurate the statue. This was one of his many ways to make students feel more involved in the school. He has also engaged the school cleaners to attend reading and writing sessions to ensure anyone associated with the school develops further. Praveen conducts various science experiments and motivates the students to have discussions on them. He builds up their analytical skills by sharing puzzles and maze stories and uses the playground to teach using real world examples and asks the students to speak in front of everyone to enhance their confidence in public speaking.

Praveen often faced a peculiar problem while interacting with parents: they spoke a different language and never understood anything. His simple solution was to learn the languages these parents spoke. Over the course of 10 years in various schools across Jharkhand, Praveen has learnt three tribal languages and now freely talks to the parents.