Meet Uttam Teron: The lesser known Guwahatian who educated 11 villages by himself
There is a yin for every yang, a solution to every problem, and a hero to every occasion, where hero is not just a word but a commitment. One such story of an unsung hero is the story of Uttam Teron - the man who educated 11 villages!
Born to a train-driver father and a homemaker mother who never went to school, Uttam hails from Pamohi Village of Garchuk, a peaceful Karbi dominated area, 20 kms from Guwahati. After finishing his graduation from a city college, he returned to his village.
He started giving tuitions that earned him a paltry amount of Rs. 800. If he was short of funds for his escapades, Uttam and his friends would collect wood from the hills and sell it in the nearby market. He was content until that one sunny day in 2001, he suddenly noticed the lack of joy and hope on the faces of children who loitered around in a village up in the hills. He noticed the same despair in the children of his own village. Most of them were either school dropouts or had never been to school. He realised deep in his heart that he had to do something for them; maybe start teaching them. But without money, there was little he could do.
After waiting for two years, he invested the Rs 800 he had earned as a private tutor in constructing a room with a tin roof and bamboo walls at an old cowshed. A pair of desks and benches was procured from a village carpenter. “Parijat Academy” started its first class with just 4 students. “At that time, parents were reluctant to send their children to school. They themselves were illiterate and had no idea what school education meant. They thought that their children were better off helping them in the fields. So I had to explain to them the importance of education - education gives true direction,” Uttam said.
The task was not easy. In fact, it was much tougher than what he had imagined. But what started as a small room in a cowshed has now turned into a regular school that provides free education to children from 11 villages of Assam. Uttam informed, “We have classes from Nursery to Grade 10 with 512 students and 25 teachers currently. In addition to subjects like Assamese, Hindi, English, Maths, Social studies, Environmental Studies, Science, Moral Education, Arts, Recitation and Music, we also teach the children sewing (for girls), bamboo craft, garment making, card making, etc. We also organise sports and cultural programs for the children for their overall growth.”
Parijat Academy aims to “develop and explore latent potentials of the children through education, helping children develop the qualities of love, kindness, compassion and universal responsibilities.”
The academy has in fact become popular with volunteers coming from different parts of India and overseas to help the children in different activities like photography, agriculture, health, sports, art and crafts, adventure programme, computer, yoga etc. Students from different schools, institutes, colleges and universities also visit Parijat Academy from time to time. The academy receives help from many individuals as well as organisations in cash as well as in kind.
“Ever since the school started, the journey has been very difficult. Running a school for the underprivileged is not easy, especially because fund raising is so difficult.
When I started the school in 2003, I had to collect pencils, old school bags and oldbooks from the villagers who were better off to give to these children. It was only in 2005 that I received the first monetary help of Rs 4000 for the school.” Today, even after 16 years, money remains a problem for Parijat Academy. There are a lot of expenses involved in running a school – salary for teachers, stationary, electricity bill, benches, food, to name a few. Uttam informed that the teachers sometimes do not get salaries for 3-4 months due to lack of funds. Whenever the school receives outside contribution, the teachers are paid their salary.
Working his way past all the problems, Uttam has been able to achieve 95% literacy for the people of Pamohi and the nearby villages. The rate of school dropouts is nil in his village. But Uttam says, “Parijat is just a drop in the ocean; we cannot bring about a change in the entire state by ourselves. We’re currently focusing only on the neighbouring villages. But if more people work together towards educating the poor, Assam can be on its way to achieving 100% education.”
Current services provided by Parijat Acamedy:
• Providing education and hostel facility to children from remote state border areas and Garbhanga forest villages.
• The school provides a library facility for the children in order to enhance their curiosity to learn.
• The academy is adding computer education for the school children. Children are taught basic computer knowledge, MS Word, Excel etc.
• The academy arranges regular health check up for the school children.
• Regular food bags are provided to the children once a month. Children of pre-primary level are given milk thrice a week and midday meal is served to all the school children once a month which is arranged by Nita Sairam Parmer, the founder of Lordsai.com.
• Eastern Women Association Social Service Award
• Rotary Vocational Award
• Balipara Foundation Award
• CNN IBN Real Heroes Award 2011
• Karmayogi Award by Lions Club