Prayas: An attempt to tackle teacher shortage in Assam

Imagine a classroom without a teacher. Can you visualise a school where students have to wait for their turn for any teacher to teach them? This was the usual scene of nearly 900 schools of Dhubri district of Assam. The situation was not caused due to lack of teachers’ interest in their job or their absenteeism. It was a product of shortage of teachers in these schools. Primarily dependent on agricultural and forest products, Dhubri lies on the banks of Brahamputra. This monsoon influenced humid subtropical district is located at 299 kms from the state capital of Guwahati near Bangladesh border. Difficult terrain combined with shortage of teachers causes a huge dent in shaping a child’s educational growth. Not only that, it makes the existing teachers’ job more challenging.

Try, try, and try again till the goal is attained is a common saying often preached at every level of life. Virtual Support Team of Piramal School of Leadership has embedded the saying in their efforts to make a difference in schooling scenario of Dhubri.

Along with supporting teachers virtually in the teaching learning process they are continuously harnessing the power of local youth to support teacher deficient schools.

In one of its first campaign to improve learning outcomes of primary and elementary school children, VFS called for volunteers from across Dhubri in June 2019. They called it Prayaswhich translates to try, an attempt. They motivated the youth to contribute to the education of the children of their community and mobilised 2400 volunteers to teach students in more than 1200 schools of Dhubri. Volunteers were to take remedial classes for 45 days starting July 1, 2019. VFS continuously engaged with them in these 45 days; appreciated and encouraged their work in good faith. As a result 800 volunteers expressed their desire to continue for the social cause and have been teaching since, improving learning outcomes and tackling teacher shortage in Dhubri.

One such volunteer is AltabHussain. He has been associated with Prayassince the beginning and has been teaching in SalkataJanapriya High School, South Salmara Block. “I volunteer because I love teaching and I want to do something good for the society,” tells Altab when asked about his motivation behind volunteering. A self-driven individual, Altab feels happy to be able to contribute for a good cause.

Local youth of Dhubri is an asset for us. Teachers of primary and elementary schools are very happy with their work in schools. Community members are also appreciating their efforts,” says SumanBanarjee, Program Manager,Virtual Field Support Team.

Along with supporting teacher deficient schools in improving learning outcomes, Prayas is also bridging school-community gap. Bringing in native volunteers made the community engage more in school activities. They acknowledge and appreciate the contribution of volunteers as well. For instance, community was so happy with Altab’s work that School Management Committee decided to reward him with monetary compensation for his efforts. With this appreciation and encouragement, Prayasvolunteers are continuing to bring in new energy in the schools of Dhubri.