This teacher has just two missions in life- to educate underprivileged children and plant trees. And he has managed to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone. Meet Chandra Bhushan Tiwari, 44, who runs four schools for children of poor labourers and makes them water trees as his tuition fee.
His four schools-- one each at Salahenagar- Bangla Bazar, Rickshaw colony- Aashiana, Aurangabad railway colony, and the new Transport Nagar of Lucknow-- are called ‘school aapke dwaar’ (school at your doorstep). And the schools don’t have walls; thatched roofs propped on bamboo poles double up as study centres and night shelters. A steel trunk to keep the children’s slates, stationery and books are their only property.
“I have 10 teachers for my 650 students. Since all my students come from a very poor background, they are given books, notebooks, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, crayons and biscuits. And as ‘guru dakshina’, I have taught them to water plants near their schools, houses, roads and even plant saplings. Discarded aerated drinks bottles are their watering can, each one has one,” he said.
Like his personality, his classes are also out of the box. He assembles children of all age groups of one school and teaches different things to different groups at the same time. “The idea is to make them read, write, draw, calculate and above all teach them basic moral science and conduct. Also I send the best students to proper schools and fund their education. At present, eight of our children go to proper schools. One Manoj Gautam, an alumnus of our thatched school is now a junior engineer in the Delhi Metro and another Rahul Gautam is a sub-inspector in CRPF,” he says with a touch of pride.
Tiwari quit his job as a teacher at a Kendriya Vidhyalaya to achieve both his aims and since he doesn’t earn anything from his four schools, he is supported in this endeavour by his wife Shushila Tiwari, a professor at a girls’ degree college, who is also the sole breadwinner of the house. “I also have about 200 contributors who give Rs 100 and Rs 200 per month. Some people even come forward to contribute biscuits or toffees for the children while others celebrate their birthdays by treating my students to proper meals or snacks,” he says.
Ask him about his decision to quit his job, and Tiwari says, “I was a student at Lucknow University when I started teaching labourers’ children. But when I got selected as a teacher in Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, I had to stop teaching these kids and they began complaining and asked me to return. It was a tough call but I realized that the Kendriya Vidyalaya kids would still get an education without me, but these children needed me for their education to continue. Besides, I also have a passion for trees that I wanted to pursue,” he said.
Tiwari not just restarted giving informal education to underprivileged children, but also restarted his plantation drives and claims to have planted one lakh saplings of the lifetime goal of 10 lakh trees.