Published: 30th May 2017
She is not your usual teacher. Pakki Roja helps underprivileged children who aren’t exposed to the outside world and motivates others to join the NSS
Professor and NSS programme officer, Pakki Roja encourages her students to go out into the community and organises camps to educate youngsters on the ill-effects of child marriage and addiction
Helping people is when she is at her happiest. Fortunate to be a teacher, Pakki Roja utilises her professional clout to help underprivileged children who aren’t exposed to the outside world. This 35-year-old assistant professor at the Department of Commerce in Gayatri Vidya Parishad College for Degree and PG Courses, Vizag has also motivated a fair number of students to become volunteers. In 2013, she joined the NSS as a programme officer and since then, has trained at least 100 students to become volunteers and speak up on matters of public interest.
If my students hadn’t shown any interest to bring about a change in the society, I wouldn’t have been doing what I’m doing today
Pakki Roja, Assistant Professor, GVPC
Born in the Tangudubilli village in the Vizianagaram district of Visakhapatnam, this small-town teacher, whose first priority while teaching, is to complete the academic syllabus, has big dreams for her students. Ask any of them about the little notebook that Roja carries with her at all times and they will vouch for the vast amount of information it carries. This book has a written list of important events in a year that she discusses with her students to keep them abreast of the times.
Beyond books: Roja, along with her students educate the underprivileged on negative issues
Aside from the syllabus, Roja also educates those who are underprivileged on current issues that could have a negative effect on the society. Roja, along with her students, helps people understand the issue, so that they can dismiss any negative assumptions they might have. For instance, during demonetisation, when people were agonising about the negative effect it would have on their livelihood, Roja and her students interacted with them and educated them on the possible solutions to this problem. “We tried to simplify the situation and explain to them the need for cashless transactions and even how to do such transactions. Initially, they were confused, but we targeted the younger generation who have the aptitude to understand technology, thus helping them understand the situation better,” explains Roja.
Roja organises special camps every year identifying areas where a change in people’s mindset is needed. One such camp is a three-year project under UNICEF’s wing to improve the lives of adolescents in Vizag. “In India, child marriages are still rampant in many remote areas. Addiction is another evil plaguing the country, where a large percentage of youngsters are dependent on alcohol and/or marijuana, also called ganja. We surveyed around 200 families in Jalaripeta, Vizag and we were surprised with what we found. The incidence of children eloping at the age of 12 or 13, while families are completely ignorant of the fact, is quite high,” says Roja.
Aside from the syllabus, Roja also educates those who are underprivileged on current issues that could have a negative effect on the society. Roja, along with her students, helps people understand the issue, so that they can dismiss any negative assumptions they might have
During their interaction with the families, the volunteers found that communities largely lived by the tribal culture, and when they relocate to the city for their livelihood, there is a high culture shock. A majority of the boys who relocate to the city, drop out of college and become addicted to alcohol and ganja. “With all the data we have collected, we made charts that showed the effects of child marriage and addiction on the society.
We encourage our students to educate the youth so that they can understand and relate better. We also plan to highlight the issues affecting adolescent boys and girls through wall paintings throughout the community,” she says. Despite her busy schedule, Roja ensures that she never misses a class, and on the off-chance, she does miss one, she makes up for it diligently.