Thursday, 13 June 2013

Harekal Hajabba - illiterate man built a school for the poor by working 15 years

Posted by Siva Kumar Ari
A beedi-roller’s son, Harekal Hajabba (in pic) could not go to school. There wasn’t one in his village. But thanks to his efforts over the past 15 years, 300 children in the small hamlet of Nyupadpu, 35 km from Mangalore, are in school that he built.

The school that Harekal Hajabba built probably has no parallel in the world. The 55-year-old ‘founder’ is an illiterate man who sells fruits for a living. But as the head of the school’s development and maintenance committee, he toils day and night to ensure that every child in the hamlet that he grew up in enjoys the fruits of formal education.





Hajabba earns just Rs.150 a day and has five mouths to feed, but his poverty does not hinder his social work.

Formal education was a mirage for the children of Nyupadpu. In 1995, Hajabba, a fruit-seller since the age of 16, decided to do get his village a school.

Time was when the backward village of 50 houses would only produce illiterate youngsters who, like Hajabba, had no option but to join the lowly-paid labour force in and around Mangalore.

He ran from pillar to post secure a grant to start a school. Four years later, the local authorities sanctioned the plan but did little else.

The plan approval was only a piece of paper. The authorities made no arrangements for either a plot of land or a building for the proposed school.




So, for several years, Hajabba’s school, which started with 28 students enrolled in classes 1 to 4, was housed in the local mosque.

After a relentless struggle with the district administration, he managed to secure land from the district commissioner. It was in a hilly area, so Hajabba spent his savings to flatten the land.

He then appealed to everyone in and around the village to contribute to the school building fund.

Soon, he raised enough funds for the construction work to begin. He himself took active part in laying the bricks. Finally, in 2003, the edifice of Hajabba’s dream was up and running.

The initial grant was for classes 1 to 4. The school was later extended up to Class 7. The salaries of the four teachers that were employed came from the funds that Hajabba had raised.

Today the primary school has six teachers and 168 students (88 boys and 80 girls). In 2007, Hajabba managed to set up a high school, which now has 125 students (66 boys and 59 girls) and eight permanent staff members.

In 2004, Kannada Prabha, a leading Kannada daily, awarded him the “Man of the Year” award along with a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh. In 2009, CNN-IBN awarded him a “Real Hero” prize, carrying Rs 5 lakh as cash.

Hajabba spent all the award money for the development of the school despite the fact that his own financial state often forces him to skip a meal. But his commitment to the school never wavers: he is there every morning, cleaning the premises and getting the building ready for the day.

He now wants a junior college for Nyupadpu. Knowing him, it is only a matter of time.

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