Food for Thought by Meeta Chaitanya: Shazama's Mission
Parent Trap: Shazama’s story
At first glance, Shazama is just like any other teacher. Like others at most Akshaya Patra Mid-Day Meal Program sponsored schools, she seems adept at teaching her students and looking after their notional and nutritional needs. Only, it is not quite so.
Unlike most teachers – who per se carry a gargantuan responsibility by being guardians of one of the most fundamental preludes of childhood – the scope of Shazama’s influence is staggering! She is a rare teacher-leader-visionary who is single-handedly responsible for managing a school of about 90 students: The Bal Shramik School (Child Labour Recreation School) in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Shazama has been at the helm for the past three years and is undaunted yet.
As if managing a bulging educational organization isn’t enough, Shazama is now determined to convert more and more parents in the area into advocates of literacy. She has been assiduous in convincing adamant parents to send their wards - children working as laborers in nearby areas - to school.
“Parents are the biggest hurdle. They would rather prefer their children work and earn money instead of sending them to school. There have been times when parents have vehemently opposed my attempts to convince them,” says she. The Akshaya Patra Foundation is proving to be a power on her side that Shazama is harnessing well. “When parents hear that their children will be provided free lunch, they are more willing to let them attend school.”
Determined and feisty, actually, Shazama is perhaps exactly like other teachers. Like a beacon, she is motivating those isolated by the pale reality of poverty into gradually glimmering converts of nurtured illumination. Of course, a medium like her deserved another becoming medium, and The Akshaya Patra Foundation stepped in to make her dreams more palpable…more achievable…more edible!