India, as a democratic nation, was looking forward to Lok Sabha (LS) general elections 2019, its seventeenth. The elections were to elect 543 members into the LS. While there’s news all around after much exaggerated and celebrated victory of NDA, there’s a lot happening in the schools in Samastipur district, Bihar. It’s the Baal Sansad (student parliament) elections which happen every year where the children from each school form the representative body. Different cabinet ministers of the students are elected by the students, for the students. They then elect a Prime Minister who is responsible for looking out the welfare activities in the school. Three stages of Baal Sansad election activities at UM (Uchh Madhya Vidyala) Desuva school, in Ujiyarpur, Samastipur district, Bihar, are listed below to get a clear understanding of the processes followed:
On the morning of 9th May 2019, all the students were excited but the 5th standard students were ecstatic as they were voting for the first time in their life. It was election day in the school.
Students from standard 5 to 8 are eligible both to cast their votes and to become the ministers. Those in 8th standard become the cabinet ministers while students from 5th to 7th standard become deputy ministers. The ones who had contested for different cabinet ministers and also those who had contested for the post of Prime Minister were all tensed. Though various methods are followed in different schools across the blocks, here in MS Desuva school, dropping the ballot paper in the ballot box is followed. Election started from morning 6AM and went on up to 11AM.
Before the elections, students who wish to contest as cabinet ministers have to file their nominations with head master. Post nominations, these students go to each class and campaign as to why they should be elected and what changes they are planning to bring in the school. They talk about existent problems and their plan to solve these problems. They also express the new changes they wish to implement in the school, how they’ll work on it and if they get elected, how they will support their fellow students in studies, sports and also in bringing back the students who have dropped out from the school or are on the verge of dropping out.
After the students elect the cabinet ministers, they unitedly elect PM and report to him/her. PM is the sole responsible person for all the things happening in the school. The same happened in Desuva school where Rohit Kumar* (RoKu) who is in 8th now, was elected as deputy PM during last academic year (2018–19) and has been elected as PM for this academic year (2019–20).
Why Baal Sansad is important, and what exactly happens there?
The student parliament outlook has paved better understanding of democracy for students through practical experiences, accountability and responsibility, and the supremacy of law. The contestants/leaders realize the implication of casting the vote and understand the importance of standing for their promises. At the same time, they develop the right attitudes and skills. When the formal discussion is in progress between the contestants, they listen to the opinions of others and also hold on to their points with evidences to prove why they should be elected. It is also observed that these students agree and respect others’ opinion if it is justifiable. Students understand that majority wins, and thus build up a social union with fellow students. They understand what is democracy and how elections are conducted in India at scaled up levels. Thus, they’re able to see what it means by world’s largest democratic country.
The student parliament has created opportunities for them to get together, organize and implement different programs, to solve the problems cohesively. They are conducting meetings with the Head Master and teachers of their school to express their problems and also finding the solution by channelising available resources.
Some of the problems that were solved and areas where notable changes were brought by Baal Sansad members during last academic year are:
- Bringing drop out students back
- Kitchen garden and wall paintings in the school
- Maintaining the cleanliness and sanctity of the school campus
- Cycle stand built to park their cycles
- Library built where students can borrow books to study
- Children’s court started where the students come up with their problems while PM along with ministers and teachers solve it
- Water and sanitation problems were solved to an extent
- Raised money from the community to buy sports kits and musical instruments
- Ensuring hygienic practices for mid-day meal and post meals
While moving around the government schools of rural Samastipur, I discern how the students are understanding the quintessence of democracy. They are acquainting the collective power of all individuals. They seek and demand for their rights. The students are more focused to solve their problems and for the betterment of their school for which they are utilizing different platforms to raise their voice. They are growing to be a strong chain between the community and the school. Gradually, it is building their attitude towards developing and taking ownership of their school.
*Name changed to protect identity.
About The Author: Karthik Yadhati is an India Fellow working with Quest Alliance in Samastipur, Bihar. He is supporting the team with content design and development to use a blended learning curriculum and develop better program strategies.