INSPIRING NORTHEAST
Northeast Today|January 2021
Inspiration is something that gives us the boost to achieve our goal. The year 2020 has been rather de-motivating that has cast a pall of fear and gloom around the world. Amid these uncertainties, there were also stories of aspirations, resilience and inspiration that surely give us a ray of hope. In an attempt to spread some positivity, Northeast Today handpicks some of the inspiring stories from the region that gives us a boost to begin the year with some much needed inspiration.

Educator & Environmentalist

Lomas Dhungel from Sikkim

Mathematics is a subject that students often refrain from calling it their favourite subject. However, it’s not the same for the students of Makha Senior Secondary School in Sikkim. The credit for this goes to Lomas Dhungel, a school teacher from Sikkim, and one among the 47 teachers from across the country, conferred with the National Teachers Award 2020, who are known for some of their amazing contributions and innovations in the world of education.

In his own words, Dhungel who teaches Mathematics at Makha Senior Secondary School explains “Mathematics is often considered to be a tough subject. This misunderstood idea not only makes the subject terrifying but also boring and uninteresting thereby preventing the students from exploring its hidden beauty. To counter this problem there arise the need of developing local innovations best suited to our requirements.”

Some ideas experimented by Dhungel are cited below:

Difficult areas in Geometry are broken down into smaller concepts which are taught with the help of poetry. This helps in the easy retention of concepts that make studies easier. Introducing the concept of shading or use of colourful sketch-pens with multiple diagrams helps in distinguishing between similar geometrical shapes.

Chapters containing multiple formulas like Mensuration & Surds are aided with imaginative short stories that are given local names. This ‘Localising the example’ methodology makes the concept look familiar and hence easy. Some activities with chart papers also help in the work. A‘Mathematical Sensitization’ class is organised at the end of each chapter where few basic concepts from related higher classes of 11 & 12 are discussed. This will reduce the fear of mathematics and ignite the curiosity of students who are interested to take science and mathematics at Class 11 & 12.

Students are also encouraged to develop additional skills like paintings, poetry and story writing in different languages. They are asked to display all skills in their mathematics copy itself. This multi-purpose presentation displayed in a single copy make it colourful and enjoyable in learning.

Another idea known as ‘Grouping & Re-grouping’ helps in dividing the class into heterogeneous groups with all learning abilities. The initial attempt of this idea is to uplift the slow learners into average learners. Once this is achieved two or more groups are again re-grouped. This process is continued until all students clearly understand the concepts.

A ‘Special Audit Team’ is also selected from among the students who would search for difficulties among themselves. This is helpful for students who are reluctant to ask the teachers but are open to their classmates. This idea saves a lot of classroom time. If the problem still persists then it is brought to me after which it is again discussed in the class, informed Dhungel.

Apart from adopting innovative methods in teaching mathematics Dhungel has initiated some exemplary efforts in terms of protecting the environment. Dhungel is the Founder cum Developer of the ‘Hariyo Makha’ project that consists of around 10 socioenvironmental initiatives.

In the locally spoken Nepali language “Hariyo” refers to the colour ‘green’ which is the colour of nature, and “Makha” is the place in the east of Sikkim. The project of Hariyo Makha started in 2015 for the protection of the environment with the help of students and local intellectuals. It works on the areas of Solid Waste Management, Proper Resource Utilisation and Sustainable Development. It also generates small revenues that is completely utilised in helping needy and drop-out students for getting admissions to NIOS and IGNOU. Until now 10 students have thus been helped.

After two years of research, the idea of “Plastic Up-cycling Initiative” was developed in 2015. Scrap plastics like wrappers of Lays, Kurkure, etc were used to prepare book covers after following a healthy and hygienic mechanism. It was the first successfully experimented idea under the Hariyo Makha project. “The idea adopted by us was very cheap, simple, pollution free and with zero by-product emission. The ugly looking scraps were thus converted into beautiful book covers,” said Dhungel.

Under this initiative, all the books and copies of a nearby school Adarsh Vidhya Mandir located at Singbel, East Sikkim were covered by Dhungel’s team in 2017. This led to the earning of Rs. 14,000 which was immediately utilised in helping one of the students in getting admission to a BA course under IGNOU. He is duly to become a graduate by 2021, informs Dhungel.

Soon after, this idea was donated to the Ajambari Self Help Group (SHG) also located at Singbel. Plastics were donated by 14 schools across East and South districts of Sikkim that was utilised by the SHG in making 2100 book covers. A revenue of Rs. 21,000 was also earned. “The most remarkable part of the work was that a part of the revenue is also going to be utilised in helping at least 2 female SHG members in their education. Thus this idea worked in the area of Women Empowerment not only in terms of finance, but also in areas of cleanliness, skill development and education as well,” added Dhungel.

In all, a total of 85,000 plastic pieces have been upcycled into 6100 book covers earning a revenue of Rs. 35,000.

Another initiative was “Clean Paper Initiative” that works on Paper Waste Management. More than 9,00,000 pages of all sizes have been collected from more than 30 schools (across East, North & South districts), organisations and individual donors. Out of it 6,50,000 pages have already been reused as rough copies.

One initiative led to another and it not only contributed to the education of the needy but also towards the environment. This initiative further led to the “Volunteer Paper Workshop” where clean semi-used A4 pages were converted to notebooks and sold.

“For every 100 copies sold one student was sponsored for admission. Half of the money was earned from selling notebooks, and remaining was voluntarily contributed by me. So far 1,00,000 copies have been sold by converting it into 1000 notebooks and a revenue of Rs. 20,000 also obtained,” asserts Dhungel.

Informing about some other initiatives Dhungel sad that one idea known as “Reverse Entropy Mechanism” that works on converting small plastic pieces into solid blocks is in its initial phase. Another is the “Lukeko Paisa (Hidden Treasure) Initiative” that works on the idea of converting the exam papers into resources. The “Outsource Recycling Initiative” works on reducing air pollution by collecting and sending small cartons for recycling that are otherwise burnt into fumes. The “Golden Rupee Initiative” works on segregation of waste materials at source in the village. The scraps are then collected, segregated and donated to local scrap vendors for a ‘Value Price’ of just One Rupee, hence the name Golden Rupee.

The “Mero Khata (My Copy) Initiative” works on generating awareness on the loss of writing area caused by traditional Ruled Copies and motivating students for using Plain Copies only. The “Pyaro Mauri (Dear Bee) Initiative” works on the conservation of declining bee species in the region. As a part of the initiative, every year in the month of December students, teachers and local volunteers come together for an extensive mustard seed cultivation in and around Makha.

The Hariyo Makha project also gets suggestions from the Education Department, State Pollution Control Board, ENVIS Department and RDD Department from time to time. “We are presently trying to convert the initiatives into livelihood and vocational works. This can generate employment at each and every corner of India with almost zero dependence on raw materials.We are working with the above departments to train more of SHGs, NGOs and interested volunteers for the process,” said Dhungel.

In his message to the people of Northeast, Dhungel expresses, “The North-East region includes areas with God-gifted natural beauty. Being brought up in this region, we are naturally sensitive towards environment as it is deeply inculcated into our culture. Additionally, we are very friendly, caring and with high degree of hospitality. I have come across several organisations that are very active towards social and environmental issues. Our team of Hariyo Makha also gets motivated by them. Any attempt, however small, made by anyone would surely contribute towards the protection of Mother Nature. Let us work together in all possible measures.”

The Yellow Crusader

Trinity Saioo from Meghalaya

Recently, Meghalaya’s Lakadong Turmeric was recognized on the international platform when it was launched in the United States of America (USA) through Nutraceutical Company, Mt. Meru Medicines via Video Conference (VC) by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and representatives of the Nutraceutical Company.

The turmeric farmers group in Meghalaya collaborated with Mt. Meru Medicines, a company from San Diego to market Lakadong Turmeric in Nutraceutical form for the US market. It will be the first company in the world to use Lakadong turmeric in its formulation.

Known as the Golden Spice of Meghalaya Lakadong Turmeric is known for its medicinal values.

The farmers of Lakadong village and nearby villages have been cultivating and producing this well-known spice extensively. However, one person who is responsible for the cultivation of the Lakadong Turmeric is Trinity Saioo. Known as Turmeric Trinity she is one of the 118 recipients of Padma Shree Award India's fourth highest civilian honour for 2020. The 52-year-old from Meghalaya is credited with spearheading the women-led turmeric farming movement in the state. Her initiative has allowed women farmers to triple their income.

After discovering the fact that Lachein, one of the variants of turmeric cultivated in Meghalaya has less market demand and poorer curcumin content, Saioo experimented with the Lakadong turmeric and saw her earnings double.

Meanwhile, the Spice Board took cognizance of her efforts and collaborated with her in educating the farmers of the region.

A teacher and a tribal farmer by profession Saioo notes, “It was in the year 2003, the Spice Board of Shillong visited us and inquired, if there were any cultivators of turmeric. They informed us that there are schemes available for the cultivation of the Lakadong turmeric, especially for the farmers. It was here that I understood, and made a promise to recultivate turmeric because of the availability of the schemes.”

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