A group of boys in Murshidabad’s Beldanga block, around 200km north of Kolkata along National Highway 12, who had become completely disinterested in studies and were whiling away their time on mobile phones has been brought together to be mentored.
The idea behind the initiative by the headmistress of a madrasa is to understand the boys’ interests and likes and dislikes rather than force them back to studies after a gap of two years.
Many of these 14-15-year-old boys had got used to spending hours outside their homes in their neighbourhood, not listening to their parents, said Murshida Khatun, headmistress of Debkunda Sk. Abdur Razzak Memorial Girls High Madarsah.
“Some have turned rebellious,” she said.
Khatun has been fighting for the rights of the girls in the area and had been approached by parents to help them get their sons back on track.
“Girls of this age still listen to their parents. But the parents said that the boys are completely out of their control. Simply telling them to study would not achieve any result because they have been detached from books completely. If we try to force them to study now, they will get further disinterested. So, we want to speak to them, understand them and channelise them into vocational courses if needed,” Khatun said.
Around 15 boys come to a centre run by Khatun twice a week to talk, watch movies and use computers.
A champion of girls’ rights, Khatun has prevented many child marriages. She has a lot on her plate but she could not turn away the helpless parents of a 14-year-old boy.
“For weeks the father kept requesting that I do something for his son. One day, when I agreed to meet his son, it opened my eyes to reality,” Khatun said.
The boy told her that there were around 50 boys like him in his neighbourhood who did nothing from morning to evening other than chat or spend time on their mobile phones with no purpose.
“Many of them have mobile phones but they are not interested in attending online classes. If there are 50 boys in one neighbourhood, I dread to think how many there must be in the village or the block,” Khatun said.
She said she realised it was not enough to work only with the girls.
In her first batch of boys, Khatun asked the 14-year-old to bring his friends who were the most disinterested in students. And they came.
“I don’t know how successful I will be but I will try to do this with boys in small groups of 12 or 15 because they need individual attention,” she said.