Shaala Sangwari: Killing two birds with one stone

The 'Shaala Sangwari' project in Chhattisgarh's Kabirdham district aims to employ educated Baiga tribal youth by making them teach their community's children in primary and middle schools. The project is financed by DMF funds

By Prashanth S Chinnappanavar
Published: Friday 29 November 2019
A newly-recruited Baiga teacher taking class in the government primary school at Teliyapani Dhobe village. Photo: Prashanth S Chinnappanavar

Sonraj, a Baiga tribal who has been educated till high school, is a resident of Pandariya block in Chhattisgarh's Kabirdham district. He travels everyday to the nearby Polmi gram panchayat to teach students in Chindidih government primary school.

He is one among the 107 Baiga teachers who have been recently recruited by the district administration. The new assignment has brought smiles and satisfaction on his face because apart from getting a job in a nearby location, he is also contributing towards the development of his community by teaching primary school children.

Similar is the case with Chain Singh, who hails from Chindidih village and teaches in the nearby Tiliyapani Dhobe government primary school. When asked about the new job, Chain Singh enthusiastically says that this new opportunity has given him hope and he can positively contribute to his community now.

The district administration of Kabirdham had recently started a drive to appoint teachers in primary and middle schools where either a single teacher or no teacher were serving. The initiative is named Shaala Sangwari and is funded by District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds.

According to the data shared by the district education office with New Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a total of 295 applications belonging to the Baiga community were received in the first phase. Out of these, 285 were verified as being correct.

Later, based on merit, 50 higher secondary educated candidates were selected for teaching in primary schools and seven graduates were selected for teaching in middle schools. Further, in the second phase, another 50 candidates were selected, bringing the total number of teachers recruited to 107.

The selected Baiga teachers have been allotted schools in Pandariya, Bodla and Lohara blocks on the basis of counselling. Teachers recruited for primary schools will draw a monthly remuneration of Rs 8,000 and those recruited for middle school will draw a monthly salary of Rs 10,000.

The Pandariya and Bodla blocks in Kabirdham are densely forested and hilly. Habitations in hilly areas are scattered, as are schools. There are no convenient roads to reach the schools from the main block headquarters.

The remoteness and difficult geographical terrain were a challenge for the district administration to find teachers who could serve in these areas. As a result, many of the schools in these blocks, particularly the schools located in hilly areas, had no teacher or had a single teacher.

Data sourced from the district administration revealed that a total of 280 and 43 posts of primary school teachers in the Pandariya and Bodla blocks respectively, were vacant. In such circumstances, the education status of these blocks was not satisfory, when compared to other blocks in the district.

“The district receives very little amount under DMF. But we want to prioritise critical sectors like education and health with whatever little we have,” Awanish Kumar Sharan, the collector of Kawardha, said.

"Taking into account, the low education status and huge number of vacant posts in these schools, we decided to recruit teachers on contractual basis and launched the Shaala Sangwari initiative. Also, since the teachers are recruited from nearby areas, we can ensure maximum presence of teachers during school hours. Since the blocks have a huge Baiga population, we gave preference only to Baiga candidates,” he added.

This initiative also provides an opportunity for the educated Baiga youth to contribute positively to their community apart from improving their economic status.

“The first generation Baiga educated youth finds it difficult to get jobs and initiatives like this provide an opportunity for them to work with the government,” Deepika Joshi, a freelancer working with the Baiga community, said.

The remuneration of the Baiga teachers is less compared to Shiksha Karmi Grade-3 candidates at the panchayat level. Shiksha Karmis draw approximately Rs 18,000 per month for teaching in primary schools.

But considering the limited DMF resources and the huge vacancies in schools, this is still a good initiative to improve the education indicators of the district. 
Later, based on the performance of the Baiga teachers, the administration must increase the salaries of the teachers ensuring pay parity with others.

The Kabirdham DMFT's initiative not only addresses the issue of teacher vacancy in tribal-dominated blocks but also solves the problem of unemployment of tribal youth. This can be a good model for other big mining districts to replicate instead of just spending DMFT funds on infrastructure projects.

Prashanth S Chinnappanavar is Deputy Programme Manager, Community Support, CSE

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