No kidding with them

Mock parliaments are a common feature these days in schools. But here is a village that is taking democracy beyond just the talk for its school students.

The children’s Gram Sabha, organised on the premises of the Gram Panchayat (GP) of Heggodu village in Sagar taluk of Shimoga district recently, saw participants from 11 schools in the GP limits. Heggodu, nestled amidst the picturesque Sahyadri Ghats, is famous for its theatre institute Neenasam.

Children apprised the authorities of not only the problems their schools faced, but also the residents’ grievances in the villages. Some did make what appeared like practised speeches, but others were extempore in addressing the gathering and putting forth their views confidently.

The adult participants at the programme comprised the GP president, the members, teachers from the respective schools and village residents. The children’s Gram Sabha is organised every year in Heggodu, with children sharing the dais with elders and elected representatives. Seema, the Panchayat Development Officer, says it is now a regular feature in all the GPs of the State every November.

A couple of girls, draped in sarees, who compered the programme, drew the attention of the audience. The mannerisms of Akshay Gowda, a class eight student who presided over the Gram Sabha, matched those of a seasoned politician. The student representatives, in their speeches, did not forget to thank the authorities for not only making the programme a reality, but also for the implementation of schemes like mid-day meals and provision of free milk supply to schoolchildren.

Naveen, a student of the Hytoor School, appealed to the GP officials to provide a playground and a flagpost at his school. Manjappa Gowda of the GP responded instantly, saying that the wish would be granted. Arati, a class seven student of the Hebbarige School, acknowledged the facilities provided in her school like drinking water, toilet, electricity, well-furnished classrooms and a library with 2,000 books. She thanked the authorities for the playground, park and playing equipment provided by the GP to the school situated in the backwaters area of the Sharavati river.

Keerti of the Bilagodi School was angry that her demands at the last children’s Gram Sabha were not fulfilled and wanted them implemented at least this year. Sandesh of the Honnesara School was promised that the dilapidated roof of one of the classrooms would be repaired soon.

The children who took part in the Gram Sabha, organised as part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, won the accolades of those in the audience. The concept of ‘schools towards community’ has largely proved to be a hit in Heggodu. S N Hegde, headmaster of the Heggodu Primary School, and physical education teacher Purushottam were instrumental in organising the programme.

At the end of it all, one got the feeling that the exercise had succeeded in fulfilling the objective of tuning young minds to what people’s power can do, and teaching them about how it is their right to get things done by the authorities.

Manu H S Heggodu
 (Translated by C V Ramachandra)

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