Dharam Singh, a young boy from Jodipai village (Kashipur Block, Rayagada district) of Odisha rose above his grim financial circumstances, overcame all odds and defied stereotypes to become a teacher.
Having studied in his local primary school up to 5th standard, Dharam wanted to get enrolled in a better and bigger school. However, his parents were ambivalent about the continuation of his studies as they wanted him to contribute towards the family income rather than waste his time studying.
“I knew that one day I will become a teacher. But studying was tough as I hardly understood the language they used in the classroom. My teachers never understood my tribal dialect either”, says Dharam. It wasn’t only Dharam who dropped out of school; there were many children like him, who left school due to language barrier, teacher shortage, and erratic school closures. Being a determined boy, Dharam persisted and finished his high school education from a school in Kashipur in 2004.
Due to his family’s dire financial condition, he had to take the practical decision of moving to Kerala as a migrant labourer. He worked there for four years, saved some money that he eventually used to support his family and his further education. He came back to Kashipur and completed his intermediate certificate course (+2).
A god send gift was an advertisement he came across in the newspaper for the post of a Shiksha Sathi for a Reading program run by Agragamee. The Creative Language Development Effort (CLDE) by Agragamee (supported by READ Alliance) is a collaboration for improving reading and language abilities in tribal districts of Odisha, where the community has no history of literacy or school education. The problem is compounded, as these first generation school goers receive little or no support for learning, either in the classroom or at home. This program is being run in about 20 Government primary schools across 3 tribal districts, through youth who are provided orientation, training and supportive Teaching, Language Material (TLM) to work as “Shiksha Sathies” or Support Teachers.
He missed no time to apply for this position, and was selected based on his outstanding performance in the written test. “I am so happy that I got this chance to impart education to children in their own language, as most of what is taught to them now, is beyond their comprehension. This moment is extra special, since I have struggled very hard to reach this point”, says a proud Dharam.
Dharam is a Shiksha Sathi in the same school where he started his education. He underwent rigorous training and capacity building to truly understand the various ways and techniques that can help students in his school to improve their reading abilities.
Since the day he joined the school, children have become very regular. Attendance rates have increased, there has been considerable improvement in children’s reading skills, and other teachers have become motivated. His family and villagers have high hopes from this determined young boy.
The smile on the faces of his students is testimony to his dedicated efforts of ensuring that not even a single child is left behind. Dharam Singh gives a knowing smile because he knows there are miles to go before his mission is accomplished.
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