Chikhalgaon a village of Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra and the birth place of Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak observed a propitious occasion twenty five years ago. The Lokmanya Public Charitable Trust (LPCT) founded by Dr Rajaram and Renu Dandekar inaugurated Lokmanya Tilak Vidya Mandir (school) in Chikhalgaon with moderate local help. Chikhalgaon was an ordinary small village with no schooling facility and no healthy surroundings. The nearest ST bus transport spot on Dapoli-Dabhol Road is far away from the village.
LPCT an eminent multidimensional non-governmental organisation has been working tirelessly since 1982 for the development of the village and its vicinity. This whole region in Konkan (western Maharashtra) consists of rocky terrain which is quite inaccessible. But still LPCT has done significant work in the field of education, health, agriculture, and rural development. The organisation has been honoured by the ?United Nations? for the special experimental school education in Chikhalgaon.
Dr Rajaram Dandekar?a lineage of renowned writer late GN Dandekar?was a practicing physician in Pune and Renu was a professor in Nanded College. She has been the author of several books in the field of education and has earned awards from the State Government as a model teacher. After their marriage, the Dandekars have determined to settle in Chikhalgaon and moved away from their urban life only for philanthropic work in the backward rural areas. Rajaram became President of LPCT while Renu was appointed as Principal of the new school. The creative and talented couple has transformed the school and today it has become a large vocational centre.
The Dandekars had to struggle hard initially for gathering the students for the school. Both had to take the children and parents into confidence for the benefits of education through their sweet tongue and other inspiring measures. Dr Rajaram pledged to improve the health standard of the surroundings and implemented remedial measures especially for the health of the young students. He found that the substandard in health was due to their ignorance and blind faiths. One physically handicapped girl named Kunda Baikar of the school has completed her SSC with good marks; now she is a rector of the hostel and runs tailoring class in the school.
The government-aided school has the present coaching up to SSC standard and a provision for a hostel for distant living students. Last year it has the first pillar of the unit for diploma courses in basic rural technology and its entire management is being dealt by its past student Kisan Pande. Today'sSSC results are 100 per cent. Most of the basic arts and servicing skills are taught in the school. The vocational education is the main central concept in this planned model. Occasionally it conducts elocution, story-telling and essay competitions like those held in urban schools. The school teaching staff is very energetic, dedicated and hardworking. They like to spend 10 to 12 hours a day without any extra remuneration.
One may be astonished to know the activities that are undertaken by the school. The students of the middle school section have learnt many arts viz: manufacturing of electric bulb, pocket torch, soap and washing powder; installation and repair of electrical and many house-hold services; assembly and repairs of computers; carpentry works; food processing work; tailoring and embroidery work; the students volunteered for the testing and registering the blood groups of all villagers and unearthed the anaemia cases; power generation through solar and wind energy for the self-usage of school and hostel buildings; self-maintained agricultural and gardening centre on five acre land of the school trust for growing crops and fruits.
Many students developed their personality and became the social inspirers and ideals in the area. Some opted for higher education, some for business; some became school teachers or contractors. Our country has many villages without adequate school infrastructure facilities and hence the Chikhalgaon School became the model to be followed by many others for the uplift of the rural sector. With the inspiration from Lokmanya Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and others the Dandekars believe that a downtrodden nation like ours will only prosper through such basic educational means. Their meritorious work in the educational field is being felicitated with the award at Chikhalgaon during December 2008.
Courtesy: Loksatta (6/9/08)
(The writer is a former ?Project Management Consultant? for local and abroad civil construction activities. He can be contacted at 11 Sameepan, Bamanwada, Sahar, Vile Parle (E), Mumbai 400 099; his E-mail id: [email protected])