My name is Jalagam Sudheer Kumar. I was born in a lower middle-class family in Venkataramapuram in Suryapet district of Telangana state. Educating in private schools and colleges had worsened our financial situation. My parents sacrificed a lot to get me the better education possible. It was the time during which private educational institutions were on the rise. I was one of the generation of silent victims of that corporate education loot.
Even though I was being educated in private schools, seeing our financial crisis, my thoughts were wandering around government schools. Why can’t I get a good education in a government school? Why do parents fear the schooling by the government? These are the questions that were bugging me constantly through out my life. It was hurting me inside to think of all the destruction of Indian educational structure. At last, I found answers to these questions in a land far from India. The United States.
In 2001, I traveled to the states for job purpose. I joined my son Vedansh in Clarks elementary school in Seattle. The education system over there caught my eye. It starts with a strong base in the schooling and making parents responsible for their kid’s academic and personal progress. Parents would regularly interact with the principal of the school and discuss their child’s progress. This meeting is called as ‘Coffee with principal’ and had a great impact on me.
In our educational system, no government school is visited by the parents of the kids studying in that school which is the major setback here. This led to the downfall of the government schools in India. Even free education and free food were not enough to convince people to send their kids to government schools. My quest to answer my conscience and find a solution was still growing inside me. So I thought of something, which would change my life forever. And the answer to all my questions in my life is ‘Tea with headmaster’.
My first step is to start with the government school in my own village, Venkata Rama Puram. It took me one year to convince the parents and school management for my proposal. Especially parents were reluctant to attend the school and showed the least interest. I knew that it will not be easy to get my plan implemented. So instead of forcing them, I gave away free gifts to the kids whose parents come to school. Gifts include Shoes, bags, notebooks and all other academic items. This plan of mine started showing good results. Parents were pressurized by the kids to come to school at least for the sake of their gifts. Seeing parents attending the ‘Tea with Headmaster’ is my first taste of success. All this process for one school took me more than one year and the next three months saw a rapid growth of changing 25 schools across 5 districts in AP, Telangana.
Tea with headmaster includes not just a meeting with the headmaster. It is also about maintaining the neatness and the sanitation of the school premises. The overall goals of tea with headmaster include,
*Voluntary work for cleaning the premises of the school and small repairs if there are any.
*Discussion about the teaching and curriculum of the students for that month.
*Making parents aware of the studies and behavior of their child.
These are just the main things I have concentrated upon and they bring much more to the table too. Like improved education standards inspired living of people even in their homes, the growth in the number of pupils attending government schools and the list goes on. All this achievement is attained not just by myself. It includes the support of hundreds of teachers, parents and children. I hereby would also like to thank the Educational ministers Kadiyam Srihari, Ganta Srinivas Rao of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh respectively, Mr.Todwood of Clarks Elementary school, the DEOs, MEOs, parents, teachers and students of each and every school that supported my initiative and they are the cause of this change.
Change is not achieved overnight. It is a gradual process which may take years to attain but I am confident that it is going to happen for sure. I dream that one day, parents will send their kids to government schools and would be proud of that. Nothing is impossible. All it takes is a step of determination to empower the poor and the urge to build a better tomorrow.
Let’s not just hope for a better society. Let us become the hope.