It get a bit spooky after Konta, despite having several visits I am unable to shake my feelings. Heading in this vast and interior region means moving deeper into a conflict zone in spectacular churn since the turn of the millennium. Since 2005, even more so. That year a local vigilante group, known as Salwa Judum, get active to take Maoist rebels. Konta is among one of the six severely affected taluka of district Dantewada. Later, in 2007, four other talukas, Bijapur, Bhairamgarh, Bhopalpattnam, Usur, shaped a separate district Bijapur. Konta is now part of district Sukma, since the conception of the district in 2012. The sixth taluka, Kuakonda is still part of the mother district, Dantewada. Geographically, this whole area is deeply interconnected and mostly untouched from outer influence.

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Children in a newly re-opened school in konta

After a silence of more than a decade, Konta is witnessing a major negotiation with conflict in the form of, ‘reopening schools’. Sukma’s collector, Neeraj Bansod, appointed in mid-2014, first encouraged to redevelop this part of the district at the local administration level. The initial focus was on creating some accessible points by building a few roads, restarting markets, and schools. Then, very compromised mobilization of government systems started working in this direction. A place is known as, Bhejji, nearly 28kms from block headquarter Konta, was one of the first locations to get in accessibility point, by restarting market and reopening schools. Then next collector, Jai Prakash Maurya, appointed in mid-2017, extended the process of re-establishment. Re-opening of schools was on high priority. This process is mobilized in collaboration with Community, Gram Panchayat, and the school education department. The community identified place to build schools and nominate local youth of their choice as a teacher make a list of out of school, dropout children, Gram Panchayat officially proposed this choice to administration. Local youths go through one-month residential teacher training. Initially, schools are operational in huts, also, the phase-wise building of concrete infrastructure is in process. Another required recurring support is being provided by an administration like books, stationery, board, chalk, MDM.

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Schools are operational but challenges are severed and in between what makes me curious is, the courage of communities, specifically, youths who are working as teachers in these schools. What actually motivates them? There are various arguments on the surface level but that is entirely inadequate to understand complexities. Few points, on which I always think are:

  • On one side there is an argument of disinterest and dropouts from schools, but on the other side, these youths completed there schooling. That schooling is all about there personal struggle to be in schools. What makes me think, is, what was the driving factor behind them? How they were doing so?
  • Even now, why they are in schools? Is it simply a job for a few bucks, or lack of opportunities in the outer world? Something else…..
  • These schools are catering to nearly 4000 students, means previously they were in the category of out of schools or dropouts, now who is responsible for this situation?? Really children and community or someone else???
  • On one side we have such a lengthy process of becoming a teacher, schools are equipped with ultra-modern facilities and services. Children are enjoying extremities of luxuries and services, the world is on their fingertips; on the other hand, here, kids are struggling to live, teachers are just on paper12th passed, even their basic comprehension skills are undeveloped.
  • In between people need to save themselves from atrocities of conflict. Why this kind of extreme gap? Forget about addressing the gap, are we even aware of this gap? If not, then, who is responsible? If yes, then for what we are waiting for? At least I am completely unable to see any kind of effort in this direction.
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Author of the blog Vikas Shukla with one of the child in the newly re-opened school in Konta

Above all, I always think, what is the role of my education? Is it helpful in engaging with the situation? Or, just helping me to survive in an illusion.

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