No access to online classes, Akash ‘sir’ to the rescue! Meet a class 12 student who is making sure village children don’t suffer because of the digital divide

27, Jan 2021 | Mamta Pared

Akash was hoping to study hard and go to college this year, however the Covid-19 lockdown 2020, turned his life upside down. A student of class 12, this is the most crucial academic year for Akash. However, it is one of the worst years he says. He does not own a mobile phone, and is now unable to attend his classes and is in the dark about any updates and announcements from his college in Badlapur.

When things were normal, Akash lived with his uncle, near his college and would never miss a class. When the lockdown was suddenly announced he came back home to his village in Kaulale. “Since then, I  have been stuck here because trains are not running,” he said, and he is also ‘locked out’ of his college, as all classes are now online. “I do not have a mobile phone, I am not online and don’t have any update of what is going on in my college. Even if I had a smartphone phone, it would not help  as there is no mobile network in my village,” he says.

CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program aims at empowering young men and women, from the communities we work closely with, including migrant workers, Dalits, Adivasis, forest workers among other disadvantaged people, to report on issues closest to their hearts and home. Please Donate Now to empower our grassroots fellows.

However, what sets Akash apart is that instead of being miserable and upset about his own situation, he has decided to use his time, education, and energy to help those who are even worse off. He is teaching the young children of  his village because their schools are closed too. “Their  studies are being hampered by the covid situation, so I gather  all of them together and  teach them,” he added. Akash knows the stress of missing classes, and what this gap in learning can lead to. “The children of my village should not lag behind  in studies and that’s why I am teaching them,” he says, even as he waits to get back to his own college and resume studies.

This report is part of CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program, and has been written by Mamta Pared who hails from the Warli tribe and lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. The daughter of brick kiln workers, Mamta wants to be a journalist, and is working on earning a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Abasaheb Garware College in Pune. Here she shares the story of a young man determined to not let the digital divide adversely impact the education of village children.

Meet Mamta Pared

She hails from the Warli tribe and lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. Her mother is unlettered and her father has studied up to the fourth standard. Mamta’s parents started working together at a brick kiln soon after they got married. Every year the family used to migrate for employment and stayed at brick kilns six out of twelve months, year after year. Mamta has four siblings, the last one was born when she was five years old. As the eldest daughter in the family, Mamta was responsible for caring for her youngest brother. When she should have been playing Mamta started helping her parents with household chores. It was as if she had lost her childhood.

Mamta enrolled in school when she was six years old but had to skip frequently and stay home to take care of her brother. On the days she could attend, Mamta had to walk long distances to get to school and started to lose weight. She suffered from skin infections because she bathed in dirty water, and played in the mud. Teachers and students avoided Mamta, and she was made to sit in a corner. Such an atmosphere almost killed her enthusiasm for learning, yet Mamta persisted and did not leave school. Adversity fuelled Mamta’s resolution, she knew that education was the only way out for her.

Mamta studied hard and passed the scholarship exam in class eight, this became a big financial support. After class 10th Mamta stayed in a government hostel. She had to beg and borrow money to pay the college fees and meet other expenses. The financial strain was so severe that Mamta’s family asked her to stop studying after class 12. However, Mamta persisted, as she knew that giving up on education was not an option.

Fortunately, Mamta’s struggle came to the notice of Vivek Pandit, Founder of Shramajeevi Sanghatana and recipient of an International Anti-Slavery Award. He has been helping her in her educational pursuit since then. The first year she studied in the College at Tehsil (Block) in Marathi, then decided to get transferred and completed the next two years in English medium from Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala college in Mumbai.

Mamta graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media and worked as an intern at the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) last year. She worked with the resources’ team and also reported multiple stories on the lives and struggles of the Warli and Katakari community, a particularly vulnerable tribal group, in the Palghar and Thane region. It has taken great courage for Mamta to leave her tiny village and come to Mumbai to study journalism.

Since childhood Mamta had been connected with a social organisation called Shramjeevi Sanghatana which works for ensuring people’s fundamental rights. She is a youth organiser there, and puts together leadership and personality-development programmes for young people. She’s working to secure the education of tribal students.

Mamta’s childhood dream was to become a doctor. However, now she wants to be a journalist, and maybe later become a professor in college. She is working on earning a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Abasaheb Garware College in Pune.

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