Perspectives of a global students on understanding education and its impact on students and their surroundings in JNV Bokaro and Dhanbad.

Last Updated: 2023-05-24T12:07:18+05:30

Understanding Education and its Impact on Students and Their Surroundings

I am a student in Grade 11, and have learned education plays a pivotal role in developing a country and its citizens in this modern day and age. It provides individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to participate and contribute to the development and prosperity of their communities. Education can have a significant impact on individuals, communities, and society as a whole. Education has the potential to make the world a more equitable and just place making individuals more responsible and productive members of society.

My father is an Indian Foreign Service officer. I was born in Riyadh, and home-schooled by my mother. When my father got posted to Palestine, my mother and I shifted to Bhagalpur, a small town in Bihar, for a few months. My father being a career diplomat and my mother a social worker, moving places was very unplanned but structured. My parents enrolled me to a play school in Bhagalpur. This was the first time I noticed how the infrastructure and children changed from one place to another. The road to school was more crowded, school play areas were different and the way children and teachers spoke was different, too. I made my first friend here. Perhaps this was my first awareness of the changing socio-economic environment around me, and my first memory of how much I noticed and enjoyed observing the differences every time I moved from one school to another, one city to another, one country to another, and sometimes one continent to another.

The journey continued and I relocated to Ramallah, the capital of the State of Palestine; then to Delhi, followed by Bhutan, Trinidad and Tobago, and finally I found home in my boarding school, Rishi Valley in Andhra Pradesh. I studied there from grade 8 to 10. Currently, I am in Grade 11 at Mahindra United World College, Pune. At 16, everything starts falling into perspective and I realize how much difference the various places and modes of education have made to my life and how the thought process gets churned in a way that a level of clarity comes through.

Traveling through my family's hometown in Jharkhand and visiting my grandfather, I crossed a few schools, seeing a different side of life and living. The many discussions on the development having a contextual meaning and grass root experiences came rushing to me. My observation of the infrastructure, nature, and people was a learning experience that goes beyond textbooks. The contrast of our world, the difference between urban and rural India, the differences in various states of India, and a parallel world that exists 200 km from the capital cities is stark. This also has made me passionate about people and development, and I have changed my lifelong ambition of engineering to that of a career in economics, development, and math. This article is my first endeavor as a social scientist to wade into the field of education, students, and its development context in the state of Jharkhand, India, where I come from.

Jharkhand is the land of forests and minerals, where the mighty Damodar flows blessing the land with abundant coal and minerals. Jharkhand accounts for more than 40% of mineral resources of India, but 40% of its population is below the poverty line. Twenty percent of children below 5 are malnourished though the GSDP (statewise GDP) growth rate of Jharkhand in 2023-24 is projected to be over 11.1%. The caste-wise population breakdown is 46% OBC, 26% Tribals, 16% General, and 12% Dalits. For my research, I chose the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) in Bokaro and Dhanbad for my study and understanding. The choice of JNV came because I believe in its strong ethos.

Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) are an embodiment of the government's effort of giving talented rural children a level playing field as their urban counterparts for an opportunity for high-quality education. They are run by Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, Noida, an autonomous organization under the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education (MoE), Government of India. JNVs are fully residential and co-educational schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education and impart education to students from VI to XII standard. JNV in every district owes its existence to the National Policy on Education, 1986. The admission process for JNVs is rigorous and is held annually on an All-India basis and at block and district levels by CBSE. The test is objective, class neutral, and designed to ensure that rural children are not at a disadvantage. At least 75% of the seats in a JNV of the designated district are filled by candidates selected from rural areas and the remaining seats are filled from urban areas of the district. There is a caste reservation policy, provision for reservation for Divyang (differently abled) children and a minimum of one-third of the total seats must be filled by girls.

I visited the JNV school in Bokaro and Dhanbad districts to understand the students, their family background, and the changes they implement back home, and also to gain a deeper understanding of JNVs' socio-economic impact. Fifteen students, three teachers, and the principal of each school were interviewed with the help of a questionnaire-aided survey. Five students from classes eight, nine, and eleven were interviewed to have a varied sample set, and they were also supposed to have spent at least two years in the school. Data from the survey questionnaire stated: 30 % of students were first generational learners, 18 % still did not have access to a toilet, bathing facility, and running water in their homes, 30% did not have a bathing facility in their home, 30% no running water in taps, and over 50% did not have access to safe drinking water.

My observations following the interaction, interview, and spending few days in the two schools about the students are:

1. Students are confident and respectful to each other, to teachers, and to elders. They were fluent in communicating in Hindi and basic English and Bangla. They were quick to understand the questions and formulate their answers introspectively. This is a huge leap in my learning considering that most of them spoke tribal/regional languages back home. The motivation in students was very evident.

2. The students consider coming to JNV a 'Golden opportunity' or a 'Once in a lifetime experience' and they try to make the best use of it by taking part in almost all the activities that are provided in the school for example, the exposure to art, dance, music, yoga, physical training, and public speaking, etc.

3. The students played with each other and participated in activities together with no concern for race, color, caste, religion, or gender. This can be corroborated by the fact that when they came for the interviews, they were on the games field, or in the dining hall they were friends regardless of their backgrounds. Children do not discriminate especially if they stay away from societal politics.

4. The classes were well equipped with smart boards and laptops for the students. In fact, many classes also had projectors. They have access to high school-level laboratories in the school, which are fitted with microscopes and laboratory apparatus. There was a well-equipped library and they spent at least an hour and a half every day together and had designated study hours. The students in JNV have the best facilities and are motivated for maximum productivity.

5. The students and teachers are close to each other and consider themselves as one family. Their relationship transcended the classroom. Teachers serve as an educator and a guide in life, hence it is easier for them to approach the teacher to ask about doubts or seek clarifications both inside and outside the classroom.

6. The students discussed global issues like climate change, pollution, safe disposal of waste, water shortage, and global warming, and were aware of repercussions both in the local context as well as global context. They try to put in their maximum effort to understand and tackle these concerns. There is almost no use of disposable plastic items at school, and they try to do the same at home, too.

Now, my most important finding - when the students go back home, they teach their friends and family what they learn in school. They share their experiences and learnings, both academic and non-academic. They also try to ensure no single-use plastic usage, and no chemical leakages or runoffs flowing into the water bodies; a girl student was an example pointing out the leakage of wastewater into a nearby river. Upon receiving the information, the authorities took action and the leak was stopped. One more example of awareness shown by a student – he convinced his family members and neighbors to get the nearby open sewage covered. A very intuitive way a few students explained to their local community members about climate change was by talking to them about the varying rain patterns and the duration of winter and summer and the change in the overall temperature. This came out to be a very convincing as well as an effective way of conveying such vital information to a mostly uneducated and rural community. Many students now also filter their drinking water at home or boil it before consumption. They also teach and inform fellow community members of the same.

Numerous students stated that they teach their younger siblings and friends and some also teach their parents when they go back home. The students also stated that they educate their families on the importance of a healthy and complete diet and its impact on the well-being of individuals. They worked in a community advocating the importance of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of the COVID vaccine. JNV students also guide aspiring candidates from their community area.

Teachers gave the feedback that many students have become more mature since coming to JNVs and learn etiquette and nuances of social behavior, and get punctual and independent, thereby becoming better individuals. The teachers said that JNVs are a great school for children due to the facilities and exposure that they get here. JNVs also support students in facilitating academic aid for exam coaching, which is provided free of cost by various organizations like the Aakash and Dakshana Foundation.

About the author:

Aryaman is a global student and presently in grade 11 in Mahindra United World College India. He enjoys reading and various physical sports, robotics and coding. A keen observer and avid follower of politics and current affairs.
- By Iti Agarwal
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