“Now that summer is here, we want all the fans to be checked in every classroom. Windows with broken glass panes need to be fixed,” says Jyoti, 12, a student of Class 6. She is conducting the Bal Panchayat (Children’s Parliament) meeting in the middle of her school grounds.
Jyoti Devi is a resident of Bada Lewa, a village in north-east India. She lives with her mother who works as a sweeper in the village. Jyoti is the President of the Children’s Parliament which monitors infrastructural needs and the quality of education in their local government-run school.
Jyoti and her friends have attended workshops where they have learnt how to plan the agenda for such meetings and follow up on issues regularly. These workshops are conducted by Oxfam and their partner, Samarth Foundation, with the help of the school teachers.
Jyoti’s primary school is one of the 8% schools in India that comply with most of the norms and standards stipulated in the Right To Education Act (RTE Act).
The RTE Act of India, that came into being on 1st April 2010, advocates the fundamental right of every child to free and compulsory education. Five years since the RTE Act was enforced, only a fraction of its promise has been fulfilled across the country.
A typical week in school for Jyoti starts with an activity called ‘tracking’. She, along with members from the Children’s Parliament walk in the village during school hours, looking for children who are enrolled but have not been coming to school regularly. On one such tracking mission, Jyoti runs into 7-year-old Anjali, wearing her school shirt and balancing her younger sister on her hip. Jyoti takes the lead in confronting Anjali’s grandfather.
“Grandfather, why haven’t you sent Anjali to school today?”
“It is harvesting month,” he answers. “Anjali’s mother is away in the fields. She has to look after her younger sister.”
“Grandfather, Anjali will miss too much in school and then she won’t be able to catch up. Why don’t you handle the baby till the mother returns?”
“I can’t handle the baby,” he replies.
“You are our elder, grandfather,” Jyoti reasons. “Anjali is still a small child. She needs to be regular in school. Please help her to go.”
He nods approvingly at Jyoti and her friends, who seem to be ushering in a new age in the village.
Photo: Natasha Badhwar/Oxfam
Help us create more Jyotis’ to brighten the future of India: https://www.oxfamindia.org/i-am-jyoti