They may be poor children of leprosy patients, but they want to make it big in life. And few of them have already succeeded, thanks to the efforts of a humble Catholic priest.
About 160 of them whose parents have finally ‘settled’ at Indira Nagar in Jaganathpur, some 14 km away from Ranchi, want to become teachers, government officials, doctors and other professionals.
Though their parents still beg to eke out a living, these children are pursuing their studies in some reputed schools around the State, mostly run by Christian Missionaries. But this would not have been possible without Father Naikam, a priest who not only got them admitted in good schools, but also has begun a primary school for the tiny tots among them at Indira Nagar.
The beginning was made in 1992 when Father Naikam persuaded two such parents to set their children free for studies. It was a difficult task, but soon the priest was flooded with similar requests and never denied any.
The elder ones have been admitted in prestigious schools of Dhanbad, Ramgarh, Gomho and Rourkela (Orissa). They now live in the school hostels, and are determined to change their social status.
“We have already placed as many as 100 of such children in different schools around Jharkhand and Orissa. And they are doing fine academically,” Father Naikam told HT on Wednesday.
Some of these children, who are currently in Ranchi to meet their parents during summer holidays, say they understand the value of ‘opportunity’ that has been availed to them.
“I want to study well and become a teacher,” says Suresh Mandal (name changed), a Class III student studying at St John De Britto School, Gomoh. For Suresh and others like him, it is now or never.
The education expenses are jointly borne by Father Naikam and the respective missionary schools.
Some of these children have already started earning for their families after completion of their studies. “However, when we go for jobs, our identity is the biggest barrier,” said Sanjay Kumar (name changed), who teaches at St Aloysius School, Ranchi.
Shankar (name changed), who is pursuing Bachelor of Science in St Xavier’s College (Ranchi), said upward social mobility is the tough, though not impossible. “ We know we can, and we will,” he promised.