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All aboard the learning train

india Updated: Jan 06, 2009 00:41 IST
Alok Kumar
Alok Kumar
Hindustan Times
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Pramod, Pradeep and Santosh were all hawkers, selling groundnuts, gram or books on local trains in and around Gaya. They were illiterate and had no means of studying. All these boys are matriculates today. Pramod and Pradeep have their own book kiosks, while Santosh has started a sweet shop.

Another such person, Niranjan Prasad alias Ganauri, has landed a job as a peon at Magadh Gramin bank. Praveen Manjhi, who was a matriculate, had no job. He has now completed his intermediate course and hopes to become a teacher.

They are among the 700-odd children and adults of various age groups, who were either totally illiterate or had given up their studies mid-way owing to poverty and ignorance. Today, all of them are educated and look at the future with hope.
And, all this has been possible because of one man, Vishwanath Vishwakarma, a teacher by profession, presently on deputation at Jethian High School as Principal in-Charge.

His big idea: Start a mobile school to provide education to poor children on trains running between Gaya and Munger. He began his mission 17 years ago, in 1991.

Vishwakarma has developed his own syllabus, comprising 11 chapters, which take the kids through a journey to make them aware of the nation, their rights, dignity of labour and self-betterment.

He started training hawkers on the Gaya-Kiul section, at his own cost. His best companion is wife Sudha Kumari, a government employee at Hasua, who also extends financial assistance.

“It is education based on human values and the syllabus has nothing to do with traditional education,” he told Hindustan Times.

Vishwakarma teaches his students about human rights, how to get certificates about social status, claim welfare funds for below poverty line (BPL) people and manage a balanced diet.

It also teaches them 11 fundamental rights and basics of welfare schemes of the government and how they operate. The children and elders, once taught, carry the message forward.

Earlier, posted at Gaya Zila school as a teacher, he had to travel to Nawada in local trains. This provided him the opportunity “closely feel” the problems being faced by hawkers owing to ignorance of fundamental rights, government-sponsored welfare schemes and other facilities. The mission is not restricted to hawkers on trains only. Vishwakarma has started imparting training to those involved in stone-crushing and street children.

A team from National Open School (NOS), which visited Gaya to meet him, was so impressed, that it is now fashioning a similar course for indigent children in other states.

Vishwakarma is spreading his wings. He has formed an NGO, Vishwa Kala Manch, to take his mission forward. He has also been entrusted with the responsibility by Nawada district magistrate Yogendra Bhakt to look after the functioning of the 82 recently started Bal Shramik Vidyalayas.

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