On a dusky evening at Ranchi’s Hatma slum, 55-year-old Mohammad Mustafa peeps into a thatched hut supported with bamboo sticks over a choked drain, covered with polythene sheets. He walks in, and hands over a textbook, a notebook, four pencils and an eraser to the three children playing inside the hut.
“Do they go to school?” he asks their mother, only to receive a blank look. She passes a helpless smile, but happily accepts the gifts.
He tries to convince her to send them to school, highlighting all the government policies for education of underprivileged children, and eventually leaves.
Cut to Friday afternoon, Mustafa is found writing slogans highlighting importance of education on a wall at a busy Ranchi locality.
“It has been around 25 years that I go around the villages and slums writing slogans on walls encouraging education for all. I also go door to door and convince parents to send their children to school, not to work,” said Mustafa, popularly known as Chun Chun Bhai in Ranchi and its suburbs.
Mustafa is yet to get any support of the government or any NGO in his crusade against illiteracy.
“It gives me happiness when I manage to send even one child to school. I want education for every child. And if nobody supports me, I am ready to walk this road all alone,” he said.
His journey, however, hasn’t been easy. He was chased out of many houses by families, which thought he was trying to instigate their children against financially helping their parents. The police too slapped a fine on him for writing slogans on walls, but he didn’t give up.
Taking his crusade ahead, Mustafa has started constructing a school on his private land in Ranchi’s Gudri slum. The construction work, however, has come to a halt due to financial crunch. Despite his repeated pleas to the government, seeking help, he says, he is yet to get any support.
“I have invested my own hard earned money to construct this school on my own plot. At least I can expect some support from the government,” said Mustafa.
He was also felicitated by state urban development minister CP Singh in 2011 and handed over a certificate lauding his charitable work in promotion of education among educationally people in Jharkhand.
Some of his slogans written on the walls say Aadha Peat Khayenge Par School Zarur Jayenge (Will eat half stomach, but continue going to school) and Purane Kapde Pehnenge Par Kitab Ke Liye Paise Bachayenge (Will wear old clothes, but save money for books).
If you visit the Neori, Irba, Dhurwa, Gudri, Kutchehri and Islam Nagar areas of Ranchi, you are sure to find Mustafa’s slogans written on the walls.
A graduate from Doranda College, Ranchi in history honours, Mustafa has also requested the government to include him in promotion campaigns under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.
“It will be easier if I get government’s support. It’s a hand to mouth situation for me at present, and the work is getting difficult with every passing day,” said Mustafa, who teaches for a living.