Colin Powell (the first African American to be appointed as the Secretary of State in United States of America) rightly said, ‘A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work’
Uttam is a young college graduate who is transforming lives of hundreds of children in a small tribal village of Pamohi in Assam. While working as a master trainer with Learn, Out of the Box in Assam, I had an opportunity to support Parijat Academy,a school for underprivileged children which currently serves more than 500 children from 9 tribal villages.
It was winter of 2013, I first met Uttam, the founder-principal of Parijat Academy. That day, he was busy with his usual academic schedule. Prior to meeting him, I had heard of him from my colleagues at Pratham. Additionally, I had read about him and his school on the Internet. After initial introduction, Uttam told the story of Parijat Academy.
Thirteen years back, Uttam started teaching with four children. An empty cow shed and a pair of desk and bench was the only infrastructure he had then.It’s been more than a decade since the school started and Uttam has grown from being just a college graduate to an expert Educator and a change agent. An Educator who understands the pedagogy for his children and a change agent who understands the need of the community; shares a concern of his society and works for it.
Since the beginning he has worked relentlessly. Reminiscing the memory, he said “I was just a fresh college graduate then, and I could see many institution of National importance around me like IIT Guwahati, Assam Agricultural University, Guwahati Medical College, Assam Engineering College, and Guwahati University. I figured out that none my village youths were attending these institutions of higher education. With those thoughts in my mind, I decided to start teaching children, with a hope that one day Pamohi village will have youths who will be graduating out of these institutions”
The first visit was an insightful one. His enthusiasm and zeal to make change is unsurpassable. In fact, he hadclearly demonstrated how to make ‘change’ happen through his initiative.Since the first visit, I visited the school several times. Each visit gave me lot of motivation, inspiration and opportunity to be with Uttam and hear more from him.As I reflect on his practices at the school, I see Uttam as an excellent teacher and a school manager – He is so different that it seemshe has gained mastery over the art of teaching. His way of explaining concepts are fun filled and engaging to students. At the school, Uttam’s engagement with other staff is transformational. Hierarchical system is non-existent and everyone’s working towards one common goal.In one of the visits to the school, he showcased me a book ‘Connect the Dots’ by Rashmi Bansal and said ‘See Bikash, I am doing nothing, but trying to connect the dots’.
For his effort, Uttam was awarded CNN-IBN Real Hero Award in 2011, Silver Phoenix Award in 2012 and Balipara Foundation Award in 2013. Parijat Academy is today supported by numerous organizations and individuals.
If every Indian village had one Uttam Teron, that would then transform the landscape and at least attempt to resolutely take on challenging issues like corruption, quality of education, poverty among others. This might sound utopian. But this is the utopian dream I have.