Uttam Teron, a Karbi youth from the village of Pamohi, 12 Kms away from the sprawling Assamese city of Guwahati, has single-handedly established and managed a school for the under-privileged children of the adjoining Karbi villages, providing free education to all of them since 2003.
The school, known as Parijat Academy, started off as a humble affair with four students and three teachers, but it has grown over the years with Mr. Teron’s resourcefulness and enterprise, currently educating an impressive 497 students, starting from Nursery to Class IX.
I recently had the good fortune to visit the Academy, where I spent a great deal of time with Mr. Teron and an overseas volunteer, Ms. Dhaujee Kelly from Bowdoin College, USA. This is what Mr.Teron had to say about his unusual career-choice….
VP: When and how did the idea of Parijat Academy come about?
UT: Parijat Academy was established in 2003.
The poor tribal children in my village were not attending school. There was lack of awareness about the importance of education, which made me think, and I wanted to do something for these children… to provide proper education in my small home… and this was the beginning of Parijat Academy.
Parijat means heavenly flower in Assamese. Children are innocent and to me, they are like heavenly flowers.
VP: Who/what inspired you to join the development sector?
UT: Before starting the Academy, I was volunteering for an organisation called All-Assam Moina Parijat. I gained some experience in this field, and I also met a lot of people working in this sector. But the biggest stimulus to join this field of work was the high dropout rates among the tribal children of my village, and the lack of awareness among the parents regarding the importance of education in their children’s lives. This particularly led to my joining the development sector.
VP: Do you think that a separate mindset is necessary to join the development sector?
UT: (confidently) I do not think so.
VP: What was your family’s opinion about your unusual career-choice?
UT: My family is not obstructing (sic) my mission. I got mental support from them throughout. My father even donated some land for the construction of the school! And my brothers are also very supportive.
VP: What are the pros and cons of your profession?
UT: From my work I get mental satisfaction. It is a non-profit school for underprivileged children providing free education. As far as the cons are concerned…I haven’t faced any yet…
VP: What issues does your organisation work with? Are you planning to branch out into other fields as well?
UT: Parijat Academy is working on children’s education in a particular village area. I have a plan for the establishment of a full handloom-weaving centre for village women as an income generation activity under Parijat Academy’s umbrella.
VP: What is your opinion about the career-obsessed mindset of today’s youth? What is your message for them?
UT: I am not the right person to give an opinion about today’s young people.
My only opinion is, whatever career you choose, do something good for the less privileged according to your capacity.