College students start study centre for children in Sunderbans

College students start study centre for children in Sunderbans

December 22, 2020
-Mita Mukherjee

A group of students from various reputable universities and colleges have joined hands to set up a coaching cum study centre for the underprivileged children of a remote island in West Bengal’s Sunderbans where students have quit studies after their school closed down due to Covid-19.

The main objective of the centre will be to make the out of school students ready for the class in which they should be in. The group will then ensure that the students return to the regular school education system when the situation gets normal, said Ankit Pal, a fourth-year student of National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) Kolkata.  

The group will start running the centre at Gobindopur Abad, an island in Pathar Pratima, nearly 130 km from Kolkata, from January. Students, all children of poor fishermen and farmers, attending the centre will be offered free coaching and given all other support like books, pencils, exercise books and whatever they would need to continue their studies.

At Gobindapur Abad, there is only one government school in the whole island with a population of around 10,000 people. The school was shut down in March because of Covid-19.  The school building was badly damaged by Cyclone Amphan that rocked many parts of Bengal in May. Online classes have hardly been held and most students of the island have remained completely detached from education, since then, said Ankit Pal.

The drive to reach out to the poor students in the far away remote places in the Sunderbans was initially taken by Pal the NUJS student and Sayan Bhattacharya of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad six months ago when they came to know how underprivileged students were forced to quit studies for lack of infrastructure and online facilities in the Sunderbans.

Later, Noumaan Anwer from St. Stephen’s College Delhi, Kanishka Agarwal from Durham University, UK, Trinayani Das from London School of Economics, Abhiraj Goswami from Jadavpur University, Kolkata,  Chirag Basu from Symbiosis Law School, Pune and some more students of other institutes joined and set up a group, Stronger Kolkata Initiative (SKI), said Ankit Pal.

The SKI centre at Gobindopur Abad will initially have all arrangements to teach the out of school students of Classes I to VIII in all the subjects. Later arrangements will be made to provide support to those studying between IX and XII.“On visiting the island we found most children had no access to education after the school closed down in March. The situation worsened after the cyclone hit the island in May . Almost all students are completely cut off from education at present. Our plan is to bring the children to our centre everyday. The teaching and learning process will be the same as any regular school. We want to make all the students ready for the class they are in now so that they can go back to normal system once the school reopens,” Ankit Pal told EducationWorld.

The centre will appoint some whole time teachers and the classes will be conducted maintaining social distancing and all Covid 19 protocols.  

“Students will come in small groups. We want to teach the students in-person so that they can learn better. They are first generation learners. So it is difficult for their parents to guide them at home.  The teaching and learning sessions will be held maintaining social distancing and Covid-19 protocols,” said  Ankit Pal.

Necessary permission will be taken from the local administration for running the centre, said Ankit Pal.

The group had found that the livelihood of the people of the island is fishing and there is an inclination among parents to engage their children in the work instead of sending them to school.

“We are insisting the students  come to the centre and learn also because of this,” he said.

The SKI has a plan to upgrade the coaching centre into a full-fledged school in future.

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