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A teacher who led a hockey revolution among tribals in Jharkhand

A government-aided minority school teacher in Jharkhand epitomizes the saying ‘where there is a will, there is a way’.

Benedict Kujur has trained a number of girls and boys who went on to represent India in the national hockey team.

Kujur never led the odds pitted against him daunt him. He was posted as a teacher and went on to become the principal at a minority-run primary school in Karangaguri village of Jharkhand’s Simdega district.

The village is located in a remote area where common people are deprived of even basic amenities.

The school was initially till fifth class and later it was extended to class eight.

“In 2003, when I was posted to Karangaguri village, I decided to organize sports. Initially, the students were not interested and even the parents were indifferent. I called a meeting of parents and tried to create awareness about sports,” Kujur told IANS.

He said, “After many attempts, the parents agreed to let their wards participate in sports. I made the sports class mandatory for everyone. Hockey was the only option. We started hockey training for students. Skill development among students was my agenda. While imparting them the skills, we faced an enormous resource crunch,” he says.

But he found ways to transcend all difficulties. The hockey sticks were made of bamboo. Even a hockey ball wasn’t available. A ‘Sharifa’ fruit came in handy as a ball. Later a ball made of bamboo was used in the training sessions.

The biggest problem was skill development. “We used to hold two sessions besides mandatory classes in the school. The first session for training was in the morning and the second in the evening. While getting involved in skill development, we focused on exercises. Students were asked to run on river sand beds and even climb hills. As the area is really backward, the proper diet was not available,” said Kujur.

In a short period, the school became a nursery for hockey talent. Many players trained at this school have played at the district and state levels. Most of those who played in the national team were women.

Now the school is getting assistance from many NGOs and other benefactors. Now hockey sticks and hockey balls are available for students.

The girls who went on to play at the national and international levels include Beauty Dundung, Sushma Kumari, Alka Dundung, Deepika Soreng, and Pink Ekka.

Kujur was transferred to Jaldega in 2016. Till then the school had become a hockey powerhouse.

Beauty Dundung, who played for India in 2019 appreciates the contribution of Benedict Kujur in her career. “It was mandatory for us to bring hockey sticks. When we failed to go with hockey sticks then we were scolded by Principal sir. We used to play with bamboo sticks in school. I have played many matches against many countries, including Australia. The skills imparted by Sir help us in international hockey as well,” Dundung told IANS.

Appreciating his work, Manoj Kumar, Secretary of Simdega hockey Association, said “70 percent of Jharkhand’s hockey players come from the school which was trained by the Benedict Kujur. Six players have played at the international level. The school provides basic skill training to students for hockey who later find it easy to play anywhere.”

Jharkhand has a rich history of producing hockey champions. Even iconic player Jaipal Singh Munda belonged to Jharkhand.

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