Tough Terrains, Unfavorable Conditions But Exemplary Courage

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From naxal-hit areas in Chhattisgarh to curfews in Kashmir, the trainers of Sri Aurobindo Society have proved their mettle time and again in sowing the seed of a positive change in the education system

Living practically out of a suitcase, Rupantar’s trainers are always on the go. Covering the length and breadth of the country, they are spread in the farthest and remotest parts encouraging and motivating teachers to bring out their best skills and be the face of change in the education sector.

Be it Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Daman and Diu or Jammu and Kashmir, this force of 128 trainers of Zero Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives (ZIIEI), the biggest project of Rupantar, have set a precedent when it comes dedication and passion towards their work with some even going to the extent of risking their lives.

Considered as the backbone of Rupantar, this experienced young workforce is responsible for imparting training to government school teachers under the project ZIIEI. During the trainings, teachers are explained about the importance of and introduced to small, yet effective innovations that require not monetary investment to simplify the teaching learning process.

They are also instrumental in encouraging teachers to share their ideas which they are practicing in their classes so that they can be included in the ZIIEI Innovations Handbook for the benefit of the teaching fraternity.
Sounds simple! But it is far from that.

From inclement weather in Sikkim to stone pelting in Jammu and Kashmir to naxal-affected areas in Chhattisgarh, Rupantar’s trainers have faced it all.

ZIIEI trainingSumit Arora during ZIIEI training

“I focus on my job and forget about the situation I am in. The fact that I am part of a movement to transform education and make it accessible to each and every child is the force that drives me to take up this challenge again and again,”said Sumit Arora, Capacity Building Trainer.

Arora, who was the state coordinator during ZIIEI training in Chhattisgarh and himself conducted trainings in naxal-hit areas, including Bastar, Dantewada and Sukma of the state, said that the situation was always scary and uncertain in the seven troubled districts.

“I was in Bastar and we had to start our training session very early and wind up before evening as it was not safe after that. Me and two other trainers who were stationed in these areas were always accompanied by block research officers,” Arora, who has taken over 200 teachers’ training sessions in his 2-year stint in Rupantar, added.

Adding further, he said that they faced network issues due to network jammers and it became difficult for them to contact anybody during the sessions. Public transport was limited and that too on specific timings. Sometimes even the trainings got cancelled due to violence in some areas.

A total of 116,895 teachers were trained during the June 2017 to November 2017 training in Chhattisgarh out of which 15,113 were from six naxal-hit districts of Bastar division.

ZIIEI trainingAbhishek Shrivastava during ZIIEI training in Kashmir

Similar was the situation of Abhishek Shrivastava, who along with his team of 21 trainers, got stuck in the stone pelting and curfew in Kashmir but was determined to complete the training sessions.

“The situation in the valley was very hostile. We could never tell when the stone pelting would start and when there would be curfew. There were instances when our sessions were attacked by stone pelters and we had to hide to save ourselves,” he said.
Shrivastava, who has conducted around 200 sessions in 12 Indian states, said, “it is our small contribution in the development of country.”

ZIIEI trainingReetesh Gupta during ZIIEI training in Kashmir

Sharing his experience, Reetesh Gupta, one of the trainers in Kashmir, had to look for a cover in a podium when the stone pelting started at his session in Avantipura block of Kashmir.

“The protesters were hurling stones from all directions. Everybody ran to hide themselves. I stood numb for a while and could not understand what was happening. I fitted myself in the podium and stayed there for 15-20 minutes,” Gupta said.

He said that he regained composure and resumed the training after the stone pelting ended. As if it was not enough, Gupta faced stone pelting on his way back to Srinagar and hurt his back.

“It was madness. I was in a shock for a while but I am ready to take the session again as it is for a good cause, for the betterment of education in this disturbed region,” he added.

Over 4,000 teachers were trained during the April-August training in the Kashmir valley.

It is the courage and passion of these trainers that has been instrumental in Rupantar’s spread in 22 states of the country in a short span of two years. Their dedication has made possible the dream of making quality education accessible to children at the grassroots.