Class in session with teacher Neelima Netam
The Primary Girls School in Loharsi
village, around five kilometres from Dhamtari in central Chhattisgarh’s Raipur
district, is special. A quick glance from the outside speaks of its age: the
girth of the peepal
tree on the premises hints at a probable 80 to 90 years. Once you go inside and
meet the students, you encounter their present and see their energy – and experience
the vibrancy of the school.
The entrance to the nearly hundred-year old school
The school was established in 1918,
nearly three decades before Independence. In the 96 years since, the school has
carefully maintained a register with the names of all its students. Neelima
Netam, a teacher at the school, said that they found an old termite-infested register
in a wooden box, with information about the teachers and students right from
the year the school was established. They put a new cover on the register and
are trying to conserve such documents, which are a rich source for studying the
Pages from the old termite-infested register
We looked at a few documents from the
collection, such as the 'Promotion Book’. A few parts had been eaten away by
termites, obscuring a few names and some information, but the rest of the
content is clear. A pen dipped in an ink bottle has been used to record the
details – the letters are big and in a beautiful handwriting.
These were some of the names – Baneen Bai Telin, Sona Bai Costin, Durpat Bai Loharin, Ramsir Bai Kalarin, Sughandheen Bai Gondin – with the castes clearly mentioned. This may be because the handwritten register is unlike the one used after it, which was printed and had separate columns for name, guardian and the caste of the student.
The records also list the prevailing subjects all those decades ago. For example, literature studies included conversation, story, drama, prose, expression, vocabulary, poetry, dictation, signature, and copy writing. Maths encompassed counting, operations, currency, simple measurements, writing style, multiplication tables, written and verbal addition and subtraction. Jyotish Vishwas, school teacher says, "At that time, continuous comprehensive evaluation was common."
The classes include story, drama, prose poetry and conversation
The register also shows that many girls
quit the school when they reached puberty. This is documented as a reason for
their leaving. Reasons such as migration or poverty are also mentioned. At that
time, besides Loharsi, girls from Aamdi and Mujgahan villages also came to
Students during a break period
The old documents provide insights into
the society of that time. The register for 1918 says that the name of the institution
was initially Daughters’ School and it was later changed to Girls Primary
School. There were 64 girls in 1918,
while today the total student count is 74, of which one is scheduled caste, 12
are from scheduled tribes and 21 are from backward classes. The school has three
The name of the school originally was ‘Daughters’ School’, it was later changed to
Girls Primary School
Not only is its past interesting, the
present of the school looks bright and hopeful too. During the
midday meal, the teachers and girls together discuss various issues; the girls
seem to be close to the teachers and share a friendly relationship. The students have learnt several group songs
that they sing together, in Hindi as well as Chhattisgarhi. Coloured pictures of birds and animals adorn the
classroom walls. Teacher Jyotish Vishwas has painted them. He says, "The
pictures are based on the text books and help the students read, write, learn
and think. Most importantly, the students and teachers are all involved in
painting the pictures together."
Pictures of birds and animals painted by
a teacher adorn the classroom walls
Sunil Kumar Yadu is the head teacher at
present. He said that he would like to see more and more of his students move
to the Navodaya School and they are preparing them for this step forward.
There were 64 students in 1918, and 74 today
of teachers on duty
The oldest building of the school needs
repair or perhaps a new building that allows for more open space. Still, it is
heartening to get a glimpse of the school’s history and the enthusiasm of the students and the teachers.
Many students are from poor families and do not have footwear. But their
attitude speaks of the laurels they will one day bring to the name of their
Many of the students are from poor families and have no footwear
Translated from Hindi
by Ruchi Varshneya.
Photos: Purusottam Thakur