This article is dedicated to one of the many unsung heroes bringing about a change. His name is Vipul Thaker, a simple man with simple dreams. Without going into his background, let me start from one of his birthdays. It was on that day when he decided he wanted to do something different. He decided to educate a Rabari (a tribe in Gujarat) child. A makeshift classroom was created on the terrace of his two bedroom house. As days passed by, Vipul went on to explore the talent in the slum surrounding his housing society. A few more students joined his class and subsequently the classroom was shifted to a light post on a nearby road. His class had no roof and was hence exposed to the harsh elements of the weather. The classes went on nevertheless. Every evening at around 09.00 pm the class would commence.
Within one year Vipul had around twenty children who worked in the day time and regularly attended his evening classes.
Looking at the progress of this informal school, the parents who belonged to the Rabari community came to his aid. They gifted Vipul with an empty hut to which the classes now moved. Of all the problems that Vipul faced, one was that of gender discrimination. The girls were not allowed to study. After much persuasion from Vipul, the parents were convinced and the girls walked in for the very first time. Within a month their strength doubled.
This school wasn’t Vipul’s full time profession. He had a day job. He did receive some voluntary contribution from a few NRIs. After a point, he decided to admit his students in to a municipal school. Additionally, the evening classes were regularly conducted to ensure students did not miss out in case they didn’t go to school in the day.
Vipul had a dream to nurture – he wanted every child to get education on par with what their more privileged peers got. He negotiated with the private school principals, head masters, teachers and finally led to the introduction of a scholarship scheme. And so today out of forty students, around twenty five of them have been admitted to a school with better amenities for the students.
In the last few years, some of his students have shown their skills at the state level in the field of dramatic and graphic arts. Today he can proudly say that these children have something to look forward to. They have a future too. Vipul considers the renowned Gujarati educationist Gijubhai Badheka as his source of inspiration. He believes that Gandhian ideals too have been a prominent force behind his willingness to contribute selflessly.
The important thing, dear readers, is that this man and many more like him are actually striving to provide an identity to these children. They are providing a platform through which these children can express their ideas and needs.
Vipul and thousands of such grassroots revolutionaries are working towards bringing a constructive change in the society and we salute them for their relentless work in making a better India.