Gritty Guru

Defying the limits–harsh weather and administrative closure orders, undaunted school teacher Aruna Nautiyal revitalises a struggling primary school in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district, turning it into a thriving centre of learning, Narendra Sethi reports
Gritty Guru

UTTARAKHAND: In the rugged terrains of Uttarakhand, government bodies and administrative entities often deploy novel approaches to elevate the standard of primary education. However, such concerted efforts often do not yield the desired outcomes.

Despite the formidable geographical conditions and unforgiving climate, numerous educators in the mountainous regions have transcended the confines of traditional classroom teaching. Rather than being restricted within the classroom walls, they have breathed new life into struggling educational institutions on the verge of closure. These dedicated teachers have ingeniously repurposed dilapidated school buildings, turning them into thriving centres of learning.

One such educator in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag is Aruna Nautiyal, whose passion compelled even the education department to bow in respect. The government had ordered the merging of the struggling Government Primary School in Jabri, in the Ukhimath block of Rudraprayag district, with the revenue village of Kandhi in the same tehsil.

However, Aruna’s strong determination, resolve, and commitment to revitalizing the school environment in Jabri’s rural community rendered the government order to close the school insignificant. With faith in Aruna’s abilities, the department withdrew its order and allowed her to operate the school again.

Aruna had a deep-seated passion for education from her early years. After completing her BSc and MA in English from Bareilly, UP, she pursued a career in the public sector. In 2009, she achieved her goal by securing a position as an assistant teacher in the Uttarakhand education department.

Aruna’s initial assignment led her to Government Primary School Jabri, marking the begining of her career in education. This first posting not only presented Aruna with an official appointment but also bestowed upon her a substantial array of formidable challenges to navigate.

Typically, teachers primarily tasked with teaching responsibilities. However, Aruna’s situation presented a distinct and complex scenario. She encountered a series of significant challenges at the school, which included academic duties, revitalising student enrolment numbers that were dwindling dangerously close to closure, preventing the relocation of the school building, and overseeing the reconstruction of the deteriorating school structure.

In a special conversation, Aruna expressed, “I don’t know how I developed the divine power within me to perform all these tasks simultaneously and muster the courage to reach the pinnacle of success, but with the support of local villagers and parents, we have successfully revived the school.”

Recounting her struggle, Aruna said, “In 2013, there came a point where the school was left with just two teachers and one student. Though disheartened, I remained resolute. Subsequently, the government mandated the school’s relocation to the primary school in Village Kandhi, three kilometres from Jabri School.”

“I could have easily used the excuse of these circumstances and school closure to transfer to another district’s school, but in front of me were the dreams of all those parents who were envisioning their children’s future in my next step,” shared Aruna poignantly. “Taking Soni Negi, the last student of the school in fifth grade, I appealed to supportive individuals in the village for help, so that the school’s existence could be preserved.”

“Since my intentions were clear, people of the village changed their minds and started to step forward to help. The village’s building contractor, Digpal Singh Negi, whose grandchildren were studying in the same school, promised to construct the school building without any profit, and others pledged to remove their children from private schools and enrol them in Government Primary School, Jabri,” Aruna explained. “In the very next academic session, the enrolment numbers started to increase, reaching up to 23 students.”

Aruna says, “The juxtaposition of affixing my signature on students’ report cards as the school head and engaging in ‘shramdaan’ to aid in the construction of the school infrastructure with my own hands may strike some as unconventional within societal norms.”

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express