“Education was only a rich man’s cup of tea during my childhood,” says Yogesh Kumar Sharma, the founder of Nehru Vikas Manav Samiti (NVMS). Being born and brought up in Kaman, Rajasthan, he closely witnessed the treatment of womenfolk and the restrictions placed on them as far as education was concerned. “Women were there just to cook and serve. It was disheartening to see,” he adds.
“I come from a wealthy family and had access to a good education. After completion of my studies, I worked in a school for a year. Kaman is a very backward area and many parents could not afford to send their children to school. Of those that could afford it, there were many children who dropped out. It felt as if the school was running just for the sake of it. I wanted to bring about a change. I quit my job and rented a two storey building with basic amenities,” adds Kumar.
Like all startups, it had initial hiccups. Kumar faced challenges like lack of a social work background, family apprehensions and not being able to get people to buy into his vision. But this did not deter him. He started visiting the surrounding communities and met farmers and labourers. “Convincing people was not as difficult as I thought. Parents were willing but lacked resources. I could get girls from the localities to enroll. During my surveys, I observed that girls who completed their B.A were sitting at home because they were not allowed to go outside their hometown to work. I employed them as teachers and started my school with 100 students and a few teachers in 1981. Slowly, word began to spread and parents started approaching us themselves.”
“We call him Chacha Nehru,” adds one of the staff members. When asked why, she says, “He loves children and there has never been a time when he wasn’t there for them. More than a school, it is a family. We all eat together, go for picnics and also share a lot of things.” Kumar, usually dressed in a white kurta pajama and a black khadi coat indeed looks like Nehru.
“I don’t know or probably can’t say why I like social work. But I can definitely say that whenever a student passes out with good results, there is a satisfaction and hope for a better future. Many students who have passed out are working for corporates while some have even gone abroad,” adds Kumar.