Pakur’s Change Story – From the desk of district collector

Pakur District Administration has worked on multiple policies and initiated significant innovations in education infrastructure and leadership development.

I took charge as the Deputy Commissioner of Pakur District in November 2018. At the time I joined, Pakur was in the 111th place out of 115 in the NITI Aayog ranking of Aspirational districts. Since then, Pakur District Administration has worked on multiple policies and initiated significant innovations in education infrastructure and leadership development. Seven months later, in May 2019, Pakur achieved first rank in Education and second overall. Pakur’s quantum leap is even more impressive when looked at through the unique challenges the district presents. As an inherently complicated tribal area, there is a mix of languages predominant in the communities, making it difficult to drive initiatives fast. Further, schools located in hilly terrain are unreachable by standard transportation or communication channels. With our administrative difficulties in manpower, radical change was slow to propagate.

The transformation of our Education system took place through three major projects – in school, in offline leadership support, and in community. These projects were supported by extensive policies and redirection of funds facilitated by extensive collaboration of multiple offices in the district. Our journey in education also witnessed an increase in employment and improvement in health. In a structure as large as the district, scaling new education processes is especially difficult. We followed the strategy of setting up demonstration schools in each block so that all the innovations can be funneled into these schools. We envisioned that once the innovations are ironed out, it will be taken up by the schools around them. The idea started with 300 libraries being set up in October 2018. Following this, in the period of January – October 2019, Smart Classes were set up in 59 schools while tackling geographic and language challenges. By March 2019, 59 school infrastructures were revamped such that the Building serves as Learning

Aid (BaLA) for children. Now, the success of these innovations makes it ripe for replication in a wider ecosystem. BaLA has already been taken up in 100 more schools since October 2019. Teachers, School leaders and Officials also need support in understanding concepts of pedagogy, leadership and keep themselves updated on the initiatives. Understanding this, we set up a call center for virtual support in February 2019. Local women trained to handle technology operate the center to provide live support on a toll-free number, send out information broadcasts to officials, collect and collate data for government initiatives and facilitate WhatsApp groups where peer groups can interact and learn. This initiative was endorsed by Honorable Chief Minister of Jharkhand Mr. Raghubar Das, who appreciated both Women Empowerment and the technical approach towards education when the Memorandum of Understanding was being signed. Since then, the center has reached out and helped 10,000+ last mile workers in the education system. In a very critical move, our administration created a movement in the community in the form of a Jan Andolan. 500 to 22,000 people of Pakur joined the initiatives lead by the Village Mukhyas. The ownership taken up adds to the richness and fruitfulness of the initiatives, for example, an increase of 27,000+ in enrollment. Further, Gandhi Fellows worked closely with community members and Head Masters to create a conducive learning environment for students. In Amrapara, a block in the district, there was a 24% improvement in attendance as a result of this. The overall number in the district was 12%. In this journey, Piramal School of Leadership acted as consultants who listened and understood the specific needs of the district. It was my personal experience that usually NGOs come and work only for a short time and it was difficult to build trust with them as they looked to do what they wanted without focus on equity and scale. However, upon interacting with Piramal School of Leadership as resource people, advisors and change managers, I found great value in their expertise in these initiatives.