14-year-old Bilal might well turn to be a bright student in the making, but till a year ago he got to go to school only four months in a year. He spent rest of the eight months playing aimlessly with friends or running small errands for his family elders. No, he was not responsible for this appalling waste of time. He was merely following what his family, along with the entire 80 strong families of fishing community to which it belongs, have been practicing for the past 26 years. They close down their homes in their villages in coastal Kutch in Gujarat and migrate to Tragadi Bunder to make the most the fishing season. They set up temporary hutments wherein with CGPL supporting water supply, health services and education facilities. They spend 8 months in this fishing ground. And their children used to be ‘out of school’, helplessly losing out their academic years.
Result? Illiteracy rages among the fisherfolks. But this is changing in recent years. Bilal and his friends can look forward to a far better future. Because Coastal Gujarat Private Limited (CGPL), the wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company has stepped in and provided elaborate educational facilities for their chaildren.
These villages lie within the site of the 4000MW Ultra Mega Power Plant, flagship project of Tata power. , This is an example of how a balanced, just and adroitly executed partnership between a community and a corporate can actually “turn the tide” in favour of not one but all parties concerned.
CGPL in partnership with Swadeep, a civil society group, is providing developmental support to the temporary dwellers in Tragadi. CGPL’s initiative to set up the temporary school in Tragadi Bunder has helped these children to continue with their studies even when they are “out of school”. In collaboration with the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) of Mandvi Block, CGPL has arranged for a teacher (through cost sharing with SSA) from Tragadi Primary school and an extension centre for Mid Day Meal. CGPL also provides teaching aids, basic accessories and books for the children.
And the Swadeep is obviously keeping a strict vigil on quality. Picked up randomly from the group of children hovering around a carom board, Bilal when asked to face a quick fire session on reading and writing responded with remarkable alacrity.
A moment of pride indeed for all the partners.