GUWAHATI: He was once the laughing stock among his friends because they saw his dream as a waste of time and energy. But that didn’t stop Uttar Teron from setting up the Parijat Academy as a one-room cowshed with just four tiny tots. Fifteen years on, the non-profit school for the underprivileged has 12 rooms and 512 students, most of whom are tribals. More important, it has helped wean them off the local custom of getting into liquor making.
Teron (42), son of a locomotive pilot, always dreamt of 100 per cent literacy among children in his hometown Pamohi and the other tribal villages on the outskirts of Guwahati. The science grad is now seen as an achiever, but to reach this position wasn’t easy.
“I started the Parijat Academy in a rather modest manner - with `800, to be precise. It was a thatched cowshed with a pair of benches and a blackboard,” Teron recounts. “The mission of the school, straddled on a piece of land my father bought, has been to provide free and quality education to children through joyful learning.”
“When I started it, my friends laughed at me, saying it was a waste of time and energy. However, that couldn’t keep me from doing what I loved most. Today, it feels good to see the craze for education among tribal families in my locality,” he says.But what do the students do after passing out of school? “One of them recently got a job with the police; several others are now in colleges in Guwahati. The results baffle me - I never thought the school would grow the way it has,” Teron tells The New Indian Express.
In 2006, he started a separate initiative to educate women, but it didn’t go as planned since most women failed to attend class for various reasons. Today, however, his school also has a dormitory that houses 60 students, 28 of whom are girls.But ask him what his greatest achievement is, and he’ll tell you it’s dissuading scores of tribal parents from sending their children to make liquor.
“Most villagers here are illiterate and stricken by poverty. There was a time when they preferred to send their children for brew-making, rather than to school. They didn’t understand the concept of education. It took numerous conversations to convince them that education had value. Today, there’s just an insignificant number of kids helping their parents in liquor-making,” he says.
More than 95 per cent of the youngsters in Pamohi are now literate, and many of their parents too have also learnt to read and write from Teron. But he’s still short of his goal — to reach every single child in the greater Pamohi area bordering Meghalaya. Pamohi itself has a population of around 2,500.
As for how he runs his academy, Teron explains: “I get donations from well-wishers, including some from abroad, and give an honourarium of `3,500 to each of the 25 teachers. However, I’m unable to pay them every month, and the dues pile up. Most people contribute in kind, so cash is a problem.”“But I haven’t lost heart. I request many others to get involved in my ‘support a child’ programme, in which donors give Rs 300 per month towards the expenses of each student they have adopted. I am planning to raise the amount to Rs 425,” he adds.
It’s work in progress
More than 95% of the youngsters in Pamohi are now literate, and many of their parents too have learnt to read and write from Teron. But he’s still short of his goal - to reach every single child in the greater Pamohi area bordering Meghalaya