Manisha, a Grade 8 student, wants to be a teacher. She has two brothers who go to the same school. Their family consists of five people who stay in a small brick room. I visited their home.
“My husband is a labourer. Sometimes he has work and sometimes he doesn’t. He hardly earns Rs. 500 a month. I didn’t have much hope for my children ‘s future because we could not afford their education“ says her mother.
As we drove through the small town, I could see how the purdah system still exists; women were refusing to speak with me. I realized how difficult it is to actually bring about a change in such a community. A school that started with Grades 1 to 5 has now grown to Grade 10 and is spread across two centers with 1,190 students.
“I feel there is a lot to do. I haven’t done enough and somehow something is missing. I work for 48 hours a day,” adds Yogesh Kumar, founder of Nehru Vikas Manav Samiti.
Apart from the school, Yogesh Kumar is an active member of Lok Adalat and the Brahmin society of Kaman. He took the initiative in forming women self help groups. When asked about what keeps him going he says “ The children are so happy studying. They see hope in this school and nothing gives me more satisfaction than being able to help them reach their dreams.”
“Yogeshji kabhi himmat nahi haarte (Yogeshji never loses heart),” adds another staff member.
Yogesh Kumar comes from a joint family and lives on the same campus as the school. “We were worried about how he would be able to manage his family responsibilities with his social work. But he persisted saying, ‘You take care of earning while I do my social work’. We gave in seeing his enthusiasm, passion and the love he received from the children,” explains Yogesh’s younger brother.
When asked what he has learned from the children he says “Their zeal to move ahead in life irrespective of their circumstances is definitely something which made me break my boundaries and take a step further in every challenging situation.”