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  • Writer's pictureMantra4Change

Community Heroes: Guardian of Education, Mr Shalinder Pal Singh

The effects of the pandemic and resultant school closure were felt by the parents, community and students across Punjab. With learning now taking place online, the teachers and school staff invested time in orienting the community and parents. ‘It was a change for all of us, but we aimed to make sure the students continued their education. We are ready to go to any lengths to support our children’ shared the School Head (GHS Budatheh, Amritsar) Mrs Poonam. Supporting the school in this endeavour was the community, namely the School Management Committee (SMC) and the Guardian of Governance (GOG), Mr ShalinderPal Singh. Guardians of Governance is a program run by the state government to support the panchayat, block and district administration in the implementation of schemes, and comprise of ex-servicemen.

ShalinderPal ji has been working as the GOG for the village since October 2018 and has built a strong relationship with the government school teachers. While his role as the GOG includes continued support to the local governing body, the school and community at large, ShalinderJi has ensured the school is his priority. ‘I have been keeping in touch with the school to help them with any work that needs to be done. When they needed support with fixing the infrastructure of the school, Sarpanchji and I worked together with MNREGA’ shared Shalinderji.

Community support for a school is generally linked to improving infrastructure and providing resources for the students. With schools remaining shut, the kind of support needed by the school and students looked very different. From sitting together inside a classroom and learning, students had to get used to their phone and TV screens becoming their classroom. This brought about its own set of challenges, making community support even more critical.

The Department of Education, Punjab has been working endlessly towards minimising the learning loss due to the pandemic. Students have been engaging with online learning since March, and teachers have been engaging closely with the parents to ensure students had access to the online learning material. However, despite endless efforts, a number of students across Punjab still did not have access to the devices needed to actively participate in their classes. This was also the case for a few children of GHS Budhatheh, and that is where ShalinderPalji saved the day.

For ShalinderPalji, ensuring the school and students feel supported is of utmost importance. So when he got information that a few students in the school were unable to participate in the Punjab Achievement Survey (PAS) mock tests, he quickly sprung into action. Understanding the importance of the tests, ShalinderPalji coordinated with the school to identify the students who did not have the necessary resources to participate- a smartphone. Through individual home visits, he supported the students by giving them his mobile phone to participate in the tests. ‘Some of the students do not have smartphones, and I gave them my phone to use. Over the week, I visited their homes and ensured they attempted the tests’ he said.

‘Bacche padhai karenge to hi aage badhenge’ shares ShalinderPal ji

Through this, the school was not only able to ensure 100% participation in the online tests, but also feel heard and supported. ‘ShalinderPalji’s support has helped us also spread awareness in the community about the education initiatives of the school. Especially before the Virtual PTMs, he has helped us connect with the parents and SMC members, urging them to participate’ shared Mrs Poonam. His motivation behind going beyond his role to support students- the power of education. He believes that students have the potential to use their education to achieve their dreams. ‘Because schools are closed, students have the tendency to not take online learning seriously. They easily get distracted and do not pay attention, which makes it harder for the teachers also. I am happy to support the school in any small way that I can’ he shared.

This is the story of not just ShalinderPalji, but of many inspiring individuals across Punjab. Community members across the board have gone out their way to not only support the students but also the teachers and parents cope with and tide through the pandemic. The role played by the community in the overall development of the child is pivotal, and the Department of School Education, with the support of the Punjab Education Collective, has been working on strengthening that.

– Contributed by Aayushi Maira, Program Team, Punjab Education Collective

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