This is the story of a small primary school in the heart of the city of Kolkata. Or, let’s say, this is the story of two women who became educators to empower children of Kolkata and also empowering themselves in the process. It is the story of my great-grandmother and my grandmother, and their beloved Kidyzone English Medium School.
I grew up witnessing animated conversations between the two; almost all of which were about Kidyzone. Our lives have revolved around this little school which, among other things, is the labour of love and a part of the identity, of these two formidable women I grew up idolising.
Mrs. Prokriti Mukherjee (my great-grandmother) was married off as a child in the early 1900s, as was the custom during those times. She had five children: three sons and two daughters. That could’ve been her entire introduction (like it has been for countless other women of her times), but of course it isn’t. She started studying while nursing a seriously ill husband, bearing his children and caring for them almost single-handed. She graduated with flying colours, trained to become a teacher and got a job as the District Commissioner of Girls’ Guide (Second Calcutta). She didn’t stop there either.
After serving as the head-mistress of Park Institution (a renowned school at that time), she and her eldest daughter (my grandmother) Mrs. Sujata Datta, set to lay the foundation for Kidyzone English Medium School – a school, one of its kind, to prepare children for high school. Mrs. Mukherjee took inspiration from a school she saw on a trip to Canada to visit her son and wanted to implement the idea here.
Started with a batch of six students in 1975 by the mother-daughter duo, Kidyzone has nurtured and groomed hundreds of children over the past 45 years, many of whom have achieve great heights in their live and careers.
In 1995, my great-grandmother breathed her last, leaving my grandmother at the helm of affairs.
A strict leader and the beloved ‘didi bhai’ (elder sister) for the teachers and staff at school, my grandmother is a woman with many talents. A brilliant singer who rarely returned from any singing competition without a prize, a NCC cadet from the Bengal contingency, an active member of the Adi Congress Cultural team, a poet and an amazing administrator. She has also been the doting grandparent, blind to my misdeeds and proud of my achievements. She taught me how to read and has read every article I have written. She always made narkel-nadu (coconut sweetmeats) with milkmaid for us and cooked keema biryani, which is my favourite dish in the world. Throughout her life, she has been a doting wife, mother and grandmother; and an educator; excelling at all her role – a true Wonder Woman.
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From the day the school was established in 1975, she has been a forerunner, leading the school as the founder Principal along with her mother (the founder President), inculcating the value of “education through love” into its curriculum. Under her leadership, teachers have taught with passion, creativity, and affection for over four decades. She has gone out of her way to ensure care, respect and happiness of her teaching and non-staff, students and their parents. Till a few years back, she would wake up in the morning and stand near the window everyday, sharp at 7.50 am, ensuring all teachers and students made it in time for the school morning assembly. At the age of 87, she uses WhatsApp, Facebook and Messenger to keep in touch with family and friends, and of course, the staff (both new and old). She keeps a close eye on the school’s Facebook page and ensures every post is drafted with love and responsibility!
Kidyzone, for the past 45 years, has been a journey motivated by the vision of this mother-daughter duo; but today, the Kidyzone of their dreams is troubled in the times of COVID-19, and we are reaching out to everyone for help. Many parents have lost their jobs, been handed pay-cuts and are unable to pay the highly subsidised school fees, straining the ability of the school to manage its operating expenses.
– Text By Atreyee Kar