Jharna Singh with her students at their computer class in Chopra block on Wednesday. Picture by Mehedi Hedaytullah
Islampur, March 20: The efforts of an unemployed graduate, a small tea farmer and teachers of a Madhyamik Siksha Kendra in the backward Chopra block has led to the start of the first computer classes there.
About four months ago, the Ananta Singh Smriti Madhyamik Siksha Kendra in Chopra block, 35km from Islampur, was sent 10 computers procured under the MPLAD scheme of BJP Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling, Jaswant Singh.
The Chopra block, adjacent to Siliguri subdivision, falls in the Darjeeling parliamentary constituency.
The school was established in 2005 in Ghorugachh village, primarily inhabited by members of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. However, the school authorities were in a fix as there were only five rooms where 440 students from classes V to VIII studied. There was no room to start computer classes and there were no teachers to take the classes.
The computers were kept in the block development office and was in danger of being returned to the district administration if they remained unused for long. According to headmaster Subhas Singh, the school had sent an appeal to the MP about a year ago pointing out the backwardness of the area and the lack of any computer education in and around Ghorugachh.
“We sent the appeal about a year ago and four months ago the computers, worth Rs 4 lakh, were procured by the block development office. But with no room and no one to instruct the students, we were left wondering how to utilise the computers as we had to send a utilisation report to the BDO within three months. We were saved in the nick of time,” Singh said.
Jharna Singh, a 24-year-old graduate in Bengali with a one-year diploma in computers, came to the rescue.
“I had heard about the problems the school was facing with the computers about a month ago and I spoke to the authorities and volunteered to teach the children for free. I was sitting idle at home anyway and wanted to make myself useful,” Jharna said.
But that did not end the school’s problem. A room with electricity was now needed. Inspired by Jharna’s gesture, Molin Singh, a small tea garden owner in the village, volunteered to vacate his sitting room for free so that classes could start.
With things falling rapidly in place, the five teachers, volunteered to share the electricity bill.
“There was a demand from the students and the guardians of the school for computer education that was not available at all and that is why we had sent the project to our MP. There were problems in starting the classes and when we saw the gesture by both Jharna and Molin, we decided to share the electricity charges so that the students could be taught computers,” said Joynarayan Singh, one of the teachers of the school.
Jharna now takes classes three days a week at Molin’s home. Each class is for two-and-a-half hours. “We learn computers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during school hours in the afternoon. There are about 50 girls and boys studying in classes VII and VIII who are currently learning the basics, like how to operate Windows and learning to type, both in English and Bengali. I make two students share one PC,” Jharna said.
The children who are taking the classes are elated. “We had a dream that we will be able to learn to operate computers and today we are happy that we are being able to do that. Jharnadidi teaches very patiently,” said Agastya Hansda, a student of Class VII.