East Midnapore in West Bengal has 347 Prime Ministers!

October 1st, 2008 - 7:48 pm ICT by ANI  

By Ajitha Menon
East Midnapore (West Bengal), Oct.1 (ANI): Believe it or not, there are 347 elected Prime Ministers in East Midnapore district of West Bengal.
The Prime Ministers hold Cabinet meetings at local primary schools, and take decisions. The issues concern the social and health awareness programmes sponsored by the Ramkrishna Mission and UNICEF.
The programmes objective is to inculcate qualities of leadership in children and train them to enable help them take important decisions in future.
Various schools in 25 Gram Panchayats in 25 Blocks were chosen for the School Cabinet Project.
Ramkrishna Mission volunteers train the members of the cabinet. They are also trained to use the toilets properly and keep them clean by imparting the know-how to other students.
The biggest success that the project has achieved is that aside from the sanitation and hygiene angle, there has been a reduction in the number of children dropping out. The experience is that the children are taking more interest in the affairs of the school and getting more involved in schooling.
One such Cabinet is located at the Alasuli Gorachand Primary School in Byabattarhat Gam Panchayat (village council). It is successfully discharging its duties and has received appreciation of the villagers and the educational authorities.
The schools Prime Minister is Arpan Bhowmick, who excels in supervising the activities of his cabinet members.
Likewise, almost every school here has a separate Prime Minister. And, this PMs four-member cabinet in the schools include an Environment minister, a Food minister, a Health and Education minister and a Sports and Cultural minister.
It is, however, the health minister who is central to the School Cabinet Project. He profile includes checking that the students wash their hands with soap before eating.
“I am health minister. My work includes keeping the school clean, particularly the verandahs, and ensuring that soaps are available in the bathrooms. I also have to check that there are wastepaper baskets in the four rooms of the school. After prayers, I have to check if students have clean nails, clean hair and are wearing footwear,” said Deepika Adhikari, ”Health Minister”, Alasuli Gorachand Primary School.
Students are told that dirty hands and nails cause stomach diseases, dirty hair breeds lice and wearing footwear is necessary to keep feet germ free.
Most of these schools have their own hand pumps, operated by the students themselves to fill the overhead tanks. The water is used for drinking as well as in the separate toilets for boys and girls.
Students compete for being selected for a cabinet post. And, the schoolteachers have linked attendance and academic performance to eligibility for cabinet ranks. This has resulted in improved attendance and performance.
Based on philosophy that a healthy mind can exist only in a healthy body , the students are persuaded to become health conscious. The project encourages to cultivate healthy habits.
Swapan Gorai, a representative of Ramkrishna Mission, says that the good habits learnt by the students are being inculcated among parents too, who are also learning to use soap to wash hands before eating, wear footwear before going out and most importantly use toilets and keep them clean.
From 25 Blocks, 25 Gram Panchayats were chosen in the District and the programme has been introduced in 347 schools. That it has been successful in promoting health education and leadership qualities is evident to anyone who visits the schools ” said Swapan Gorai, a representative of Ramakrishna Mission.
All the selected Gram Panchayats have toilets in almost every household but the usage was not 100 per cent. The school project has also motivated several parents and others to use toilets in their respective houses.
The cabinet members sometimes even make village visits and inspect households and persuade the villagers to use soap and toilets. The social change vis-a-vis hygiene and sanitation is considerable. Open defecation habits of people are down to zero in these areas now.
Most of the schools also have clean rooms, boundary walls and grounds. There is a mini-garden and the students are more disciplined and responsible.
Arup Kumar Bhowmick, the Headmaster at Alasuli Gorachand Primary School, tells that the children are learning to become model citizens.
The project has succeeded not only in improving sanitation and hygiene for which it was primarily introduced but also helped develop leadership quality amongst children, increased attendance in schools, reduced school drop out rates and drastically improved the health of the students.
The programme has worked miracles with little investment. The villages surrounding these 347 schools also now present a picture of a healthy and progressive rural India. (ANI)

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