What is the first thought that the word ‘Sikkim’ evokes in your mind?
Ethereal hills, meandering rivers, picturesque valleys, the pristine snow capped mountains of the north or the bountiful greenery of the east.. or does your mind wander away to the cobbled streets of Gangtok,the array of nicely decorated shops on the M.G. Marg or a plateful of steaming hot Momos. But Sikkim has a bigger treasure, neatly tucked away, one that not many of us are aware of… it’s beautiful people.
Truly, a trip to Sikkim would be incomplete, without getting to know its amazing people. The moment you step here, you will be surrounded by gleeful faces.
There is no other state in India, where the people live up to the ancient Indian saying of ‘Atithi Devo bhava’ as much as they do it here.
So simple are their ways and so warm are their hearts, that it spills over in their appearance, thoughts and behavior. Ever trusting, ever helpful, they are always willing to extend their hand and embrace you. Irrespective of their financial status, they are always well turned out. They can teach you a thing or to two about making the most of what you have.
But when it comes to work, they are damn serious. Unlike other states, You would not find people loitering around, begging or creating nuisance because every one is mindfully tending to his or her work.
This is the third year that I have been visiting Sikkim for, & I have already made many best friends for life. Back home they say, “people from Hills are naturally good”, but I wonder, could it just be the virtue of the soil?
As my friend Suraj explained to me many times that here in Sikkim, as the weather is cold, the people are also cool. Well obviously I was not thoroughly convinced with his reply.
As I searched for answers I found out that the answers were right in front of me all the time. Let me take you through them….
Click on the first Photo to continue reading…..
A very common Sight on the Roads of Sikkim. Children of all ages walking 1-2 km to reach school.
Sikkim’s Literacy Rate according to 2011 Census data is around 82% where India’s Average literacy rate is 74%.
On 2001 the Literacy rate was 68%. A leap of 14% in 2011 was only possible because the state Govt. invested a lot in education, and implemented a few mandates to favor the people of Sikkim.
The State has more than 1500 Govt. schools, which is approximately more than one school in every Town or Village in the State.
It is mandatory for every Sikkimese family to send each of their children over five years of age to school
Now coming to the most Important part: All the facilities provided to a Sikkimese Resident in a Govt. School are free. Yes, Free! Which means no admission fees.
Schools also provide Free Books, Bags, Full Uniform and even Raincoats. Which means all the necessary items to Educate a child is provided by the State Govt.
With special attention towards the education of a girl child.
Extra care is taken to ensure Specially-able children are not left out as well.
Every school is either affiliated to CBSE or ICSE board.
The primary medium of every school is English. Other local Languages such as Nepali, Hindi are also a part of the Curriculum.
Normally in Junior High schools the second half (After Recess) is completely kept for Extra curriculum activities such as, Physical Education, Football Practice, Dance, Recitation, Art Class etc.
Popular and local dance and songs are performed by the students. They not only learn practical lessons, but also thoroughly enjoy these sessions which keeps them engaged.
During these sessions children learn the basic Ethics of life. They learn how to respect people and also learn about their own culture.
During Holidays special cultural events are held. One of them being ‘Bhanu Jayanti’.
In these events, several competitions , like Recitation, Local dance competitions etc are held.
Children wear traditional dresses on these special occasions to perform local dance.
Children enjoy playing games in Recess hours like any other Schools. Cricket being one of the most played sports here.
But their favorite sports is football. India has a number of talented footballers coming from North East, specially Sikkim. But unfortunately due to Hilly terrains, and remote locations not all the schools have proper Football grounds.
Teachers in Sikkim are amongst the highest paid in India . This ensures that it attracts best young minds to opt for Teaching jobs in Sikkim.
In most of the schools Teachers are also involved in drawing motivational or Educational quotes or Maps or figures in the Classrooms or the walls of the school.
The State Govt. also educates the parents about family planning. As a result of this, the number of Student’s are also reducing. In the above picture, this is the entire Standard 1. Only consists of 5 students.
Apart from all the facilities provided by the State Govt., schools also have mid Day meal system run by Central Govt.
So basically, apart from getting free education, the children are getting free clothes, books and Food. Thus encouraging the residents to send their kids to school.
And from 2014 onward, higher education up-to graduation level has also been declared free for all Sikkimese Students in Govt. colleges. Even in developed countries like US education is free till High school level.
And not only this, various other scholarships for Financially weak families or special schemes for a Girl child has also been implemented and fruitful.
When your Govt., your schools and your teachers put in an honest effort towards making you a better human being, you do not need to worry, You are in safe hands. These little children are not only learning how to respect and value each other but also learning about their own roots. And the most importantly this knowledge is being imparted to one and all, caste, status, background not withstanding.
Now my search for answer was finally over. Not only mine, but here lies answers to most of the common problem the World has.
And I really hope someday other states in India can follow this path to prosperity.