Wed, 26 Jun, 2019

Sagar Schools: No Child’s Play!

Children of fishermen community studying in Sagar Schools at Kutch, Gujarat will be performing an award winning children’s play ‘Is desh ko rakhna mere baccho sambhal ke’ at various places in Goa beginning from January 7

06th January 2019, 02:33 Hrs


The 20 children studying in Class 5, 6 and 7 at Sagar Schools are the first generation students in the fishermen community in Kutch, Gujarat and are excellent performers as they do not know to mask their feelings like urbanites even while acting or performing. The children will be presenting a Balnatya (children’s play) as part of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi that is hosted by the directorate of Art and Culture - ‘Is desh ko rakhna mere baccho sambhal ke’ at Sanskruti Bhavan, Patto, Panaji on January 8 at 4.30 pm. It’s a theatrical presentation offered by Yusuf Meherally Centre (YMC), Bhadreshwar at Kutch which is sponsoring Sagar Schools. 

YMC works for the development of children among the local fishing community and promotes and propagates the importance of education in this community. This play, which is the result of YMC’s cultural activities, has been awarded first place at the district level children’s drama competition in Gujarat. The same play has been brought to Goa by YMC and the shows will be held at different places in Goa. 

“The children will stage two shows on January 7 at two schools. The first being arranged by Gopinath Gawas, principal at Swami Vivekanand Smruti Sangh High School, Keri. And the second at Thane Government Secondary School, Valpoi sponsored by its principal, Kashinath Naik. The third show will be on January 8 at Sanskruti Bhavan, Patto Panaji, sponsored by the directorate of Art and Culture. On January 9, the play will be staged at Canacona, thanks to Prashant Naik, chairperson, Ravindra Bhavan, Margao who has arranged for the transportation. Manisha Kulkarni, principal at Moving School, Pernem too, has helped the troupe financially,” briefs Naman Sawant, assistant chemist, PWD water treatment plant, Assnora and a social worker in the area.

All the children performing in the play come from fishermen community and the first generation students in their families. They study in one of the 11 Sagar Schools, run on the seashore with the financial assistance of YMC and other local NGOs. 

These Sagar Schools are the brainchild of a voluntarily retired school teacher from Goa, Devendra Kandolkar, whose book on Sagar Schools has bagged Maharashtra State government’s Best Book award. Devoted to social causes, ex-teacher Kandolkar has been voluntarily working in providing education to these children who otherwise do not attend any school and only help their parents in sorting out and selling fish.

Sawant briefs, “The fisher folks along with their families shift to their temporary makeshift shelters at the seashore for eight months of the year and are in the village only for four months. Hence, their children do not see the face of school as no institute allows them to attend only for four months.” 

It was Kandolkar, who had voluntarily retired from his school in Goa - Peter Alvares Memorial High School, Morji - and was on a visit to Gujarat earthquake victims in Kutch to review the health related work of Yusuf Meherally Centre, saw the plight of the children and was moved deeply.

A Rastra Seva Dal karyakarta, Kandolkar decided to stay there and work voluntarily. A devoted teacher all his life, when he saw the little children of the fisher folk not attending any school, he started a kindergarten school in the open. The strong winds blew sand in the eyes of the children whose only protection against wind and sand were sheets of gunny bags. Kandolkar also began teaching the elder children who were handicapped and stayed at home. 

“These elder children were taught to teach the younger kids. Gradually, 11 Sagar Schools were raised in the area along with a hostel for those whose parents would shift to seashores for eight months,” shares Sawant. 

Kandolkar strived hard to wipe out the blind faith prevailing in the community and imparted the importance of education. He convinced the parents to send their children to schools as otherwise they would be cheated in their fishing business by those agents who dominate and are educated. Along with education, Kandolkar began to introduce the children to entertainment and staged small plays to educate them against blind faith. 

“These children have natural acting talent as they do not know to mask their feelings. Their expressive faces have won them prizes for their superb performances,” appreciates Sawant who recalls the play ‘Tuti Pati’ presented by Sagar School students on November 13, 14 and 15 in 2017. Kandolkar who has been working in Kutch since 2014 is running these aided schools with the help of YMC and others including Goans who are eager to extend their help. 

Devoting his energies, time and money to educate economically deprived children without any remuneration, Kandolkar’s services have not gone unrecognised. While Kandolkar is content with the pension he receives as a retired teacher, the other two teachers including Falguni Parmar take pride in educating the underprivileged. “It is because of selfless people like Kandolkar that the world becomes a better place to live,” concludes Sawant. 

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