The Garos, a linguistic and religious minority in Assam, have been struggling to preserve their language since the partition of Meghalaya in the 1970s. Apurba Thakuria, the school inspector, not only helped preserve the language, but also ensured the promotion of the language. In a missionary mode, he set out to change the educational landscape of these Garo-speaking villages. The focus was on Gohalkona village in Kamrup district of Lower Assam.
Thakuria’s success story received praise from state education minister Ranoj Pegur in the assembly last week. Pegu will visit Gohalkona on December 31 to welcome the successful candidates.
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In the marginal villages inhabited by the Garo community in Kamrup and Goalpara districts of Assam, there is a lack of communication and internet mode to connect them with other parts of the world. During the peak period of the Garo and ULFA insurgency, many villages along the Assam-Meghalaya border witnessed violent clashes between extremists and security forces. Thousands of young people are still pursuing higher education here.
For many matriculants in Gohalkona, traveling 15 km to the nearest college in Boko Haram is an endless journey due to the hilly terrain. There is no public transport. Gohalkona Lower Primary School was founded in 1893 by American Baptist missionaries. Even today, a student has to travel all the way to Boko or Meghalaya for senior secondary education.
“Our first task is to ensure that government-run Garo medium schools are not closed due to shortage of Garo teachers. Teaching in the local language is essential and it has been approved in the new education policy,” Thakuria said.
There are 72 Garo primary schools in Kamrup district where 115 teachers have been recruited. The same problem exists in Goalpara where Garo schools are struggling to survive in the absence of adequate teachers. Many have compromised on the quality of teaching and performance with a single teacher. “There is a huge shortage of teachers in Assam who can teach in Garo. Many teachers do not want to go to Garo inhabited areas on the remote border,” he added.
“If we fail to produce more TET qualified teachers, there will be a huge crisis in Garo schools after the retirement of senior teachers,” he said.
Nokrakhi W Marak, a successful candidate from a farming family, said the study material was given to them for training in October. “Very few trained teachers were created from our village, mainly due to the lack of attentive coaching,” he said.
Retired principal of Dadara High School Paresh Vaishya, who worked as a key resource person in the training, said the challenge was to create TET teachers from a small area of Gohalkona and 10 marginal villages in the vicinity. “Science and art teachers must know Garo. It should be their mother tongue. In many schools, minors cannot communicate in any language other than Garo. Not even Assamese,” he said.
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