There is a saying in Hindi that only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. That was why when a young Parshuram saw the children of Dalit and Adivasi labourers toiling along with their parents, he was forced to think whether they too were destined to toil as labourers.
This question kept pricking his conscience. An idea struck him: He could share his agony with some youngsters who were giving tuitions to children to support their educational expenses. That was the beginning of his mission to educate the children of labourers. The youngsters agreed to teach the children and Parshuram paid their fees from his wages.
Parshuram was born in 1952 into a Dalit (Chamar) family from Ghatila village in the Aandar police station area of Siwan district, Bihar. He never went to school. A young Parshuram realized that he would have to earn money to put food on the table for his family. So, in 1952, he shifted his base to Bokaro in the search of a job and never returned to his village. At that time, the Bokaro Steel Plant was in the initial phase and people from different parts of the country had started coming for work.
He began to work as a labourer. By the 1980s, he had learnt enough to take up a job of a mason. After the death of his elder brother in 1985, he married his brother’s widow.
In the 1990s, he realized that his efforts could make these children literate only. He understood the difference between the education imparted by the tutors he had engaged and a formal school education.
In 1997, he built a hut in Sector 12A of the city, adjacent to the airport, and thus Birsa Munda Nishulk Vidyalaya (Birsa Munda no-fee school) was born. The school, which began with 15 children, now has 164 on its rolls. Ironically, a government school, where midday meals are served to the children, is situated only 400 metres away.
His wife Pana Devi supports him in his venture. A midwife, Pana has been meeting the family expenses while Parshuram has been spending his wages on educating the children. The couple has four children – two boys and two girls. The eldest daughter is married and the remaining three are students, who also teach at the Birsa Vidyalaya. They also give tuitions to other students to earn extra money.
Furthermore, Parshuram has sought the help of his people to ensure that the education of the children is not interrupted. Some have refused but many have agreed. They have arranged for uniforms, books, notebooks, benches, desks, chairs, etc for the school. Some have sponsored the khichdi meals for the children. In 1997-98, Rameshwar Prasad Gupta, the owner of Mama Hotel at Ritudih in Bokaro, provided uniforms to all the children and sponsored the ‘khichdi’ meals served to the children once a week. Impressed by the commitment and dedication of Parshuram, in 2003, the Sector-4, Bokaro branch of the State Bank of India adopted eight girl students of the school and took up the responsibility of educating them till their graduation.
At the advice of some of his acquaintances, in 2006, Parshuram had an organization called Jan Kalyan Samajik Sanstha registered to run the school. Until today, the school hasn’t received any grant from the government. Parashuram says, “At the insistence of some educated persons, I met the Deputy Commissioner of Bokaro with a request for some help for the school. He recommended my case but his subordinates demanded money for forwarding the file. I refused to pay a bribe and from then on I never made another attempt to secure government grants as I realized that nothing can be done with this system by compromising one’s principles. I have faith in society and till now, it is alive,” .
(Translation: Amrish Herdenia; copy-editing: Lokesh Kumar)
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