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State level convention of Savitribai Phule student forum

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On Gandhi Jayanti, 2nd October, a state level convention of Savitribai Phule student forum was organized by BDVS together with Dalit Mukti Mission and Mithlanchal Dalit Vikas Samiti. The convention was organized at Brajkishore Smarak Sabhagar, Sadaquat Ashram, Patna. Around 500 students along with a group of parents, teachers, and invited guests participated in the convention. The students came from the districts of Sheikhpura, Patna, Muzaffarpur, Jamui, Banka, Kharagpur and Samastipur. Out of the 500 students who participated in the convention, 405 were class 10 students. The primary motive of the state level convention was to bring together class 10 students for a day of motivational session as they prepare to appear for their Secondary Board Exam in early 2019.

BDVS had started an educational program way back in 2016 to contribute towards expansion of quality education among our focus group. Moving away from our strategy of providing complimentary coaching to lower primary students, we decided to select a group of class 8 students and to support them till they complete their secondary education. We selected nearly 600 students enrolled in class 8 from five districts. From the start, the objective was to motivate and support these selected students to complete their secondary education with good competency.

The selected students were provided with quality complementary coaching, centrally monitored continuous assessment of their academic progress, and motivational classes. The program insisted on full cooperation of the parents and their participation in the program. The participation of the parents in monthly meetings, quarterly parent-teacher meetings, and once a year state level meeting were insisted upon. Regular attendance in the school as well as in the coaching centre, hard work and self study measured by progressive improvements in their academic competency are a few points that the program expected from the selected students.

In the first year, a good number of students had dropped out for one reason or the other. Faulty selection, lack of interest among the parents, irregular attendance both in the school and coaching centre, and some instances of early marriage, etc. had led to discontinuation of over 100 students. From the second year onwards, the number of students in the program was steadier, both the parents and their wards were more proactive and motivated. At the moment, 405 students are pursuing class 10 and they display good measure of motivation.

Nearly 405 class 10 students from the focus group interacting with one another, sharing with one another their collective dream of completing secondary education with good competency and setting a new dream of quality education that goes beyond secondary education is itself a very valuable event. The event also helped the students to identify themselves as members of a student forum taking inspiration from one of the great leaders of our country who had been the first woman to become a teacher and strove hard to promote education of girls, particularly of dalit communities. Under the inspiration of the first woman teacher, the students of the Forum can strive to achieve great educational heights.

The students began to arrive at the venue from 8 in the morning. As they arrived in groups, they were welcomed with applying of Tika on their forehead. Then they were led to thematically organized stalls. There were five thematic stalls arranged for the students with an aim of imparting information, knowledge, and interest in themes that are important to them. The themes that were highlighted in the stalls were: (1) Health & Hygiene by Holy Family Hospital, (2) Science by students of Dr. Jose Kananaikal Middle School (Munger), (3) Constitutional Values by Shri. Praveen Madhu of PUCL, (4) Dalit Leaders in the country by Shri. Manoj Prabhavi, and (5) Child Rights by Prakash Kumar and Jyoti Kumari. The students spent about 15 minutes in each stall gathering a lot of information and knowledge.

The main function began at 12 noon with lighting of the lamp and garlanding of the portraits of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation and Mata Savitribai Phule, the first woman teacher in the country. This was followed by a devotional dance presented by students from Dr Jose Kannaikal School. Sri Mahendra Raushan welcomed the gathering and Mr Sanayi Nayak, the program coordinator of BDVS presented the nature and objective of Mata Savitribai Phule Student Forum. Besides the cultural program presented by students, the major focus of this function was to converse with the students to motivate them to excel in studies as well as in all other aspects. In order to engage the students in motivational discourse, a group of prominent personalities were invited. Shri. Anand Kishore, IAS, the Chairman of Bihar Secondary Education Board spoke to them on how the state is trying to improve both the quality of education as well as the passing percentage in the state. He invited them to prepare well for the upcoming examination. Dr.Amrita Chaudhary, Head of the Department of Geography, Patna Women’s College helped the students to grasp the role of knowledge in education. She explained to the students that acquiring knowledge is different from passing an examination. Knowledge and character that education helps one to develop help one to become resourceful, socially sensitive, and responsible human being and citizens. Sr. Juliana, the administrator of Holy Family Hospital explained to them the importance of all round health in their growth. She dwelt on physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health each of which one need to cultivate. Sr. Veena, the secretary of Navjeevan Social Service Centre narrated life stories of two women who have progressed much in life through sheer determination, motivation and hard work. She urged the students to dream big and to steadfastly work towards realization of their dreams. Praveen Madhu, state secretary of PUCL also addressed the students.

Fr. Anto Joseph, the director of BDVS expressed his joy in seeing so many call 10 students gathering under one inspiration and dream. He congratulated them and apprised them that how they would come valuable resources of the community to trace a path of development. He invited them to personalize the values, truthfulness, and revolutionary spirits of Mahatma Gandhi and Mata Savitri Bhai and to come forward without hesitation and counting the cost to contribute towards building up of our nation.

The students presented awareness songs, dance, speeches and street play. The street play staged by students from Khagaria communicated an importance message to all how we need to prevent child marriage. The message was communicated very powerfully by the young artists. The awareness songs, speeches, and other items presented by the students gave them wonderful opportunity to express themselves with confidence and without fear or hesitation.

Mr. Radha Mohan, the coordinator for education and the main organizer of the convention presented the vote of thanks and reminded the students that all of them should aspire to complete class 10 exams with first division. The function was concluded by signing together that we shall spread the light of education all around and the national anthem.

The students enjoyed a sumptuous meal after the program and departed to their homes with much joy, motivation and a dream – to pursue quality education that goes beyond completion of class 10. It was a great occasion both for the students and all the rest who participated in the program.

Report by Fr. Anto Joseph

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