Raising The Bar: Meet Manoj Kumar Singh
Coming from a government school himself, he vowed to ensure that whenever he leads a school, his focus would be towards all-round student led development and team work.
If you have ever wondered, how the vision and determination of one man along with a team of dedicated teachers and diligent students can change the face of a school or even the entire village, this story is for you. The astounding transformation of Government Primary School, Saira Gopalpur in Varanasi is a proof that development is a result of unwavering faith and hard work.
Starting out as a Sarkari Teacher, Manoj Kumar Singh always wanted to make a difference in his student’s lives by making government schools synonymous with success. Coming from a government school himself, he vowed to ensure that whenever he leads a school, his focus would be towards all-round student led development and team work. The perfect opportunity presented itself when he became Headmaster at Primary School, Saira Gopalpur. Back when he first joined the government school on September 14, 2016, he began his journey with enthusiasm, excited to bring change. After 6 successful years of work and growth, today, he maintains the same optimism with better plans and bolder actions that makes him unique among others.
A teacher by profession and a leader by heart, he is renowned and recognized for the milestone transformations and changes he has brought to the face of Primary School Saira Gopalpur.
When Manoj ji first came to Saira Gopalpur Primary school, the place was in shambles. There was nothing more than a dilapidated building with no boundary wall, no furniture, and no students. Classes were not regular and the dropout rate of the school was alarmingly high. In addition to this, there was minimal community support, villagers would often interrupt and walk across classrooms to access the fields behind the school. When classes were not in session, one could see cattle grazing around the property.
Another pertinent issue that arose was the reaction of the villagers and guardians towards the school. Because of its earlier situation, the school and its staff were not taken seriously by the villagers and were often undermined. This obstructed the creation of a positive atmosphere and ambience for learning among the children. As surprising as it sounds, this situation while being difficult did not demotivate the headmaster even a bit. Instead, Manoj Ji began taking each hurdle as a challenge that he knew he could overcome.
LEADING THE ROAD TO CHANGE
On observing these challenges, the best course of action was to step up and recreate the picture. With Manoj Kumar ji leading the charge, the swift transformation was soon possible. He consulted his fellow teachers, took help from local administration officers, NGO’s and began chalking out the roadmap to build his school as a Model Government school. The infrastructural transformation was a striking feature of the success that the school achieved from the year 2016 to 2020 with a direct impact on school enrolments which are now ever-rising. With only 135 students in 2016, the school now has approximately 315 students, as of 2021.
Manoj Kumar ji credits his dedicated teacher’s team and relentless support from his family for the transformation. It all began with Rs 30000 cheque he received from his father, also a retired teacher, who encouraged him to use the money to purchase some furniture and uniforms for the children. Inspired by his efforts, the teaching staff also contributed to buying sweaters for all the students in the winter of 2016.
Soon the headmaster, in order to bring some administrative uniformity, began issuing Identity cards for the students and teachers along with Personal student diaries to inculcate discipline. With the help of local administration, the Basic Shiksha Adhikari, and an NGO Kiran Society, more furniture was added along with tiling of the floors which were kucha earlier. A small and efficient library along with sports facilities makes the school truly special, according to Aditya, student of class 5th.
BRINGING THE TECH
Scientific intervention and using technology to aid classroom education were important missions for Manoj Kumar ji, which he diligently worked towards. Encouraged by this unfolding vision of a Model School, the Airport Director of Varanasi donated a computer laboratory and dining sets to the children. The school also installed CCTV cameras for the security of the premises. The teaching team pitched in to procure a projector to conduct ‘smart classes’ at school and a few months back, they welcomed a Virtual Reality box to ensure their students get an immersive learning experience. Recently, a science class on Solar system was taught with the assistance of VR and it was a huge hit! It made learning fun and nurtured a constant curiosity among students to make science their forever friend.
Inspired by the Gurukul parampara, Manoj Kumar ji aspires to amalgamate ancestral traditions with scientific innovations to ensure a learning experience for his students which brings the best of past and future. His efforts towards infrastructure renovation, technology upgradation along with increasing teaching standards are evidence of this fact.
STUDENT LED DEVELOPMENT – BAAL SANSAD
One idea that Manoj Kumar ji propagates wholeheartedly is student-led development in school. To ensure this, he created a Baal Sansad, a student parliament with focused responsibilities and shared duties. This helped in making changes in and around the school which was based on the needs of the children. The Baal Sansad would hold discussions and deliberations on the requirements of the students and very often recommend their own study plans too. Occasionally, the school is given to the Sansad to administer which gives them a chance to hone their leadership and management skills.
Over the years, Baal Sansad has proved to be a very active student body which is routinely involved in all decision-making at the school, from feedback on teaching methods to suggesting infrastructure repair. Yash, the student of class 5th, says he is motivated by the dutiful efforts of the council in conducting discussions on current national and state events along with developing environmental consciousness among the students.
BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
The school showed resounding success in terms of performance with increased enrollments and fewer dropouts. It was observed that students, especially the younger ones were more excited to attend school when it had proper facilities. Sports were actively encouraged at school along with regular cultural activities. A model school began to shape up. This positive spirit was not bogged by the pandemic-induced lockdown. Though unfamiliar territory at first, however Manoj Kumar ji and his team swiftly managed the challenge by adapting to the needs of the students and teaching digitally.
Regular online classes were held which began with a short prayer assembly, a general knowledge quiz session, and two subject lectures. Homework was shared and checked via Whatsapp and teachers took a special interest in clearing concepts of those weak in the specific subjects. The idea was to ensure that no child is left behind while the world waited to return to normalcy. Aditya, class 5, who truly missed going to school during the lockdown, says that the co-curricular activities and competitions at school motivated him to study and play harder.
COMMUNITY AND GUARDIANS’ INVOLVEMENT
Regular Parent Teacher meetings are held every month at the school wherein teachers have detailed discussions with parents regarding the improvement in students’ grades. It helps the parents gain confidence in what is being taught at school. The hard work put in by the teachers in securing solid education motivates the parents to be equally responsible for the student at home and ensure home assignments are done on time. This creates a chain of disciplined behavior among the students both in school and at home.
The village community, which was earlier considered to be a challenge, slowly but surely turned into a source of support and encouragement while Manoj Kumar ji deftly led the school. The much-deserved appreciation by the community is a milestone for the mission as it ensures steady enrollments for years to come. This was achieved by relentlessly raising awareness, developing infrastructure and pedagogy along with raising student performance. Regular School Management Committee meetings along with strong community participation in school initiatives like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao ensures their continued support. Saira Gopalpur and its people have a renewed faith in the government education system and what can be a better victory than the coming together of a village community to participate actively in the education of its children.
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
Government Primary School, Saira Gopalpur upholds democratic principles and ensures that all administrative actions are a result of team deliberations of both the teachers and the students. Headmaster Manoj Kumar ji has created a Teacher’s Council as well, which acts as aid and advice to the headmaster. This spirit of teamwork inspires confidence in the students and also makes them realize the importance of accountability in their professional life. Manoj Kumar ji, pays heed to all feedback, criticisms, and suggestions made by guardians and administrators and culminates in into his never-ending drive towards betterment.
Primary School, Saira Gopalpur team is now seeking to build more classrooms, toilets, an assembly hall, and a music room on the school premises to aid in effective teaching and overall development of the students. As a note to teachers and future educationists, Manoj Kumar ji credits the school’s success to the determination of his staff, their honesty of purpose, and integrity towards duty. This along with a creative problem-solving attitude is the key to progress.
While unique in its own way, his is a story of sheer optimism meets perseverance, traits regularly seen in Sarkari teachers who put purpose in their professions.
Manoj Kumar Ji’s tenure at Saira Gopalpur, its stunning transformation and consistent progress teaches us that change is both a cause and consequence of change. A visionary headmaster inspires his teachers to work harder which further inspires students to perform better and consequently moves the administration to assist better and on and on it goes in a cycle of hope and grit. Let us applaud and remember that this all began with one Sarkari headmaster’s faith in education and belief in the possible.
Sarkari, sabse Asarkari!
(With Sonal & Soumya)
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All the stories are originally designed by team Sarkari School. Strict action will be taken against plagiarism.