PRELUDE: The Right to Education (RTE) Act though passed in parliament in 2009 but the actual effect came on 1st April 2010. That is, free and compulsory education for children between age 6 and 14 years in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. Free education means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the appropriate Government, shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. Compulsory education casts an obligation on the appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group. This scenario ensures that children are sent to Government or Private schools in towns and cities. Out of the total seats in a given academic year 25% goes to children who apply through RTE ACT immaterial of their background and financial status. The aim is to get all or most of the children educated.

In USSILAMPATTI, Madurai district, the Headmaster Shri. Madan Babu, of a State funded School, sought to make difference.  Uniform clad with no school bags to carry, books to read and write, children were taken to a vast green irrigational lands in a nearby place called PASUKARANPATTI. There were about 100 children from class IV and V, with teachers and Headmaster ventured to learn farming hands on. Shri Madan Babu who was clueless about farming, since born and bred in city learnt about it and made an attempt too with the children who when asked, told him they know nothing about farming. He wanted them to learn and understand farming by demonstrating to them. 

The main aim for the field trip was to make them learn farming, an age old occupation, at such a young age.  Children who had not seen any animal beyond goats were happy to see paddy fields ploughed by oxen. Children learnt to plant the paddy sapling by stepping in to the slushy field, they were happy to hear the KULAVAI, the songs sung by ladies during the sapling planting session and other times to make them forget the strenuous work load. They also learnt the other stages of farming like, preparing the soil, planting paddy sapling, weeding, treat the plants for insects, pulling out of matured paddy plants for separating the paddy grains from the plants. The children vowed that they started to develop an affinity for farming. Farmers were surprised to see so many young sprouts willing to learn the process of farming from them.  Enthusiastically they taught them the whole process and told the children that they are waiting to see grown paddy plants from their sapling planting efforts. They were happy to impart the farming knowledge they possess to the young enthusiasts.

Farming is a whole year occupation with many varieties of crops to be planted and prepare the soil accordingly for such cultivations. It’s fully dependent on the vagaries of weather, where the scarcity or abundance of natural resources can be fatal to the crops. With the Central Government giving freebies, subsidies, to the farmers not many takers are there. The number of farmers are dwindling owing to the next generation going out in search of jobs in the city and at some point their indebtedness forces them to take extreme steps. At this time of need its commendable that the Headmaster Shri. Madan Babu took this initiative to reach farming to the young ones.  TO POSSSESS SKILL SETS ALONG WITH EDUCATION IS A MUST.

-Vijayashree Ramesh

The writer is an advocate based at Chennai