I have been a Trustee of Jagadiswar Chatterjee Memorial Educational & Charitable Trust (JCMECT) since its inception in 2006. JCMECT was created to oversee the work of a primary school and to undertake education and health-related social activities. The School (Dinanath Chatterjee KG School) was established in 1984. The School is housed in my family home in Bally, near Kolkata. In 2014 it marked 30 years of its existence. The School has been running with limited funds but a not-too-modest aim of providing accessible quality education to children of all social and economic backgrounds. We have kept the School fees low, provide concessions to students of economically less sound background, buy books, and arrange tutors who would teach free of cost.
My involvement in the School deepened when my father (‘Baba’) fell ill in Feb 2008. Before that I was more of a distant observer, discussing different school-related issues with Baba and attending some of the major school programmes. Baba was fully involved in the School and other activities of JCMECT. He left his job in State Bank of India to pursue his passion. Baba passed away seven months later.
I slipped into his shoes almost seamlessly. I could not devote my entire time to the School though and much less to any other work of JCMECT. I was working in Delhi as a trade policy specialist and my mother did not keep well either. So I juggled my various commitments for some years. The School flourished in spite of the drastic changes it underwent. We have big dreams for it.
At present the School has about 45 teaching and non-teaching staff members. The number of students in 2016 grew to more than 600 from 550 in 2014. The school does not strictly follow any particular board of education. The media of instruction is a mix of Bengali and English with Hindi taught as the third subject. We follow a rather traditional system of education. In our experience, since a large majority of our children are from families which are not fully equipped to guide them, an old style system works better for them. This means we have regular exams and rigorous grading system. At the same time we try to help the children who find difficult to cope with the school curriculum.
Many of our students have gone ahead to do quite well later in life or at least have bettered their position in life compared to their families. Through the School and through JCMECT, we try to provide financial and other kind of help to the students who are lagging behind. It’s a slow and often frustrating journey but bit by bit we have reached here and hope to achieve much more.