Thursday, July 8, 2010

We were destined to serve and be happy

Forty years back after returning from Canada, when I started a school up to class VIII in remote rural area inhabited by the weaker section of society, I had a dream to produce a 1000 people like me through the school. I frankly admit that I could not fulfill even one percent of the dream. But, the Almighty has been kind to us and did not let us disappoint or break. For one thing, the people in the government administration and also in the government then understood the meaning of social work. I got full cooperation from them whenever I needed. I cannot say so about the present scenario.

The type of work my wife and I had undertaken is the job of kings (governments) or Fakirs. Born in a poor family myself, I was neither. Nevertheless, my wife and I have a success story to tell because we have been privileged to receive blessings and assistance from saints like Swami Pathik Ji and Swami Chidanand Saraswati of Rishikesh. Why they came forward and helped us is anybody’s guess. We had nothing except sincere efforts and desire to help my fellow villagers. People kept coming and helping in our efforts every now and then.

In the meantime my sons Neelesh and Shailesh became capable of extending a helping hand to us. We are getting the pleasure of completing the task assigned to us by the Almighty. Efforts of my son Neelesh and his friend Sharat Pradhan helped our school gain Grants-in-aid, but only up to Class VIII. Neelesh funded the electricity connection bill and internal wiring in the school. Karan Dalal from Mumbai, a noble soul and IT professional, came from nowhere and with his friends arranged for large sums of money for completing construction work. His father Mr. Shishir Dalal arranged for solar lights in the school with which the campus is well lit in the night and six computers are running uninterrupted. Other computers run with normal electricity and back-up.

When Adam Gilmore a friend of Neelesh and a senior scientist in NASA came to our school and delivered a lecture, using projector, on how space crafts are launched and stationed in space, the entire community of teachers and students including ourselves were thrilled. In spite of our unfinished dream, we are contented in life that God has chosen us to deliver something for the needy.

In an area of about 400 sq. km., there still is no Inter College or a High School. Our only desire remains to see that students of my village and surrounding do not have to walk or peddle a cycle for 12 km each day for secondary education. But, officers of education department insist that infrastructure must be at par with the affluent areas. They are not able to appreciate that challenges before social workers in rural areas are different from those of the urban counterparts.

We have adequate building for secondary school in a remote village Kunaura in Lucknow, district, thanks to contribution of our well wishers and friends. Incidentally, the mason included the thickness of walls in the room lengths therefore some rooms are 4 inches short of 25 feet. The education administrators say the class rooms must be 25 feet long nothing short of it. They demand the building must measure inch by inch, fees should not be charged, teachers be paid salary as per the government scales, library and furniture be at par with the urban counterparts and the government would not help financially. The government in the rural areas could at least relax conditions of recognition, if they are themselves unable to open secondary schools in villages. In a situation like this, I have limited options. Compromise with my inner self and bribe the babus or leave the dream project and spend energy on the other modes of social work.

There is no dearth of areas of social work to serve the rural areas. We have made our contribution in the past in the fields of adult education, training in tailoring, food processing, dairy farming, agricultural extension and child nutrition. We can devote our remaining part of life to any of these areas but these are no alternative to quality education to rural poor.

Should the rural youth be deprived of good secondary education because they are unable to construct huge buildings? Should the rural poor be provided only spade work under NREGA for ages? Should there be no distinction between the rural and urban norms for school recognition? I hope the Education Policy makers would address to the needs of the rural youth.

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