Sunday, August 24, 2008

‘Each one, Teach one’ - It’s learn & teach in Punjab college

One minute, they are students trying to absorb as much of the lesson as possible. The bell goes and they slip into a different role — that of teachers. In Gurdaspur’s Baba Aya Singh Riarki College for Women, ‘each one, teach one’ isn’t just a saying; it’s the college code. So, seniors teach juniors, set question papers for them, distribute answersheets and ensure that the exam goes off smoothly. Sans invigilators, mind you. For copying is unheard of in this institution established in 1967, with the aim of educating girls.

"The first time in front of a class is daunting but now I lecture confidently," says 18-year-old Harpreet Kaur, a econdyear BA student who teaches first-year students. All disputes are also resolved by the students themselves to boost their problemsolving skills.

Not just teaching, everything here is inhouse. Students cook, wash clothes and clean the campus, eliminating the need for any staff. Enter the building, and it is difficult to distinguish teacher from the taught, cook from sweeper. Clad in white salwar-kameez with heads covered in white dupattas, students rotate duties as teacher, cook and sweeper. The principal’s wife, Jagdish Kaur, oversees all kitchen activities.

"In our institution, the annual expenditure for a day scholar is Rs 800 and Rs 6,000 for a boarder," says octogenarian Swaran Singh Virk, who besides being principal is administrator, guide and mentor for students. Presently, the hostel accommodates about 2,000 students.

The college also has its own flour mill, saw mill and cane-sugar grinder, dairy farm and even a biogas plant that supplies gas to the kitchen, thereby saving at least Rs 1,000 a day. Use of solar power also helps cut their energy bill by a further Rs 10,000 per year.

The extra income goes towards educating kids who can’t afford to pay even the Rs 800 annual fee, says Virk. Though it has no affiliation, Guru Nanak Dev University has established an exam centre here and evaluates answersheets.

And though self-sufficiency is the guiding principle behind this college, the results are proof that academics aren’t neglected. The pass percentage every year is 99-100%, with almost 80% getting first division.

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