By Kishor Kumar Kalita
J ust after India’s independence, a group of people ventured out with the intent of bringing education to the local population of Assam as well as different parts of the North East. The entire enterprise was done by those who were inspired with the thought that a tion can only stand when all its citizen have the opportunity of proper education and participation in every step of policy making. They considered it essential to rebuild the tion through education and therefore sacrificed their persol interests for the greater cause of society. Apart from government initiative, these young people took up the onerous and challenging mission of spreading education among the local people of this part of India. In Bajali, a freedom fighter took up that challenge and went ahead with the mission of educating village folk without any formal support from the government. This intrepid young man was late Kamaleswar Mazumadar.
Born on January 10, 1897 in Kaljhirapara in present Barpeta district of Assam, Mazumadar was drawn to India’s freedom movement at a very early stage. In 1934 when Mahatma Gandhi came to Assam, he attended a mass rally at Barpeta town and from there appealed to the people for a united India. Gandhi also asked the rally to refrain from any malpractices that could foment untouchability in society. This appeal made a deeper impact on Mazumdar and with that realization, he got involved with the freedom movement. As a result, he could not complete his matriculation and decided to start an altertive model of schooling in his tive village Kalarguri.
Thus began Mazumadar’s tryst with local folk of Kalarguri and adjacent areas, whom he grew to love dearly in the years ahead. He embraced the idea that Independence alone could not emancipate rural folk so long as they remain deprived from education and knowledge. For the well-being of society as a whole, every individual should get social, cultural and economical opportunities equally. Therefore, immediately after Independence, he started a very informal school in his village and tried his best to make every member of that particular locality literate. He was determined to uplift the downtrodden and carried out his efforts voluntarily. He was also a vociferous opponent of gender discrimition; his relentless campaign against it ensured that it became a topic of public discussion. In time, all the village folk adopted the struggle for literacy and gave this selfless worker their unstinted support.
The struggle for such evolutiory transformation did happen in Digboi region too. The 40’s, 50’s and 60’s of the 20th century witnessed the beginning of an informal educatiol process in Digboi. For children who were not part of the formal educatiol process or informally studying at home, Ganesh Chandra Saikia started an open school in paddy fields, where he taught deprived children geography, mathematics and other subjects of the school curriculum. It was not all work for Ganesh Saikia also initiated pioneering efforts to involve students in sports and scout activities.
Though Saikia was a teacher in Assam Oil Company Boy’s School of Digboi, he was involved in open school work during his off-time and holidays. Dedicated teacher that he was, he even invited students to his home where he took free classes. The children associated in this open school could without hesitation or being intimidated --- approach Saikia during holidays and spare time. Saiklia never charged any tuition fees; on the contrary, he used to spend his salary on buying children books and other school items. Moreover, he used to move from village to village, and wherever he could --- he would organize children into football teams and scouts and guide groups.
Late Mazumdar and Saikia were born teachers --- who spread the light of education among poor, underprivileged children but remained unsung, without getting any recognition from society. The media did not write about them either. Even people involved directly with education as teachers, trainers and administrators --- have either not heard of such people or have forgotten them. The selfless activities of such dedicated teachers were carried on without any objective of persol profit or seeking recognition. But they have become examples for their successors in the field of education.
The educatiol history of Assam is the history of consolidated endeavour of establishing countless small educatiol institutes spread all over the State. Such institutes came into existence only because of the dedication and untiring efforts of educationists such as Kamaleswar Mazumadar and Ganesh Chandra Saikia. Unless society, and educationists in particular, do not appreciate and value such contributions, then the sacred mission of education itself stands to lose in the long run.