In April 2014, with the issuance of a notification, the government of Himachal Pradesh approved a primary school in Niharki, a district in Kangra.
It has been three years since that announcement, and the village still awaits a proper building that can be called a school. However, the growing children of the village don’t have the luxury to wait for a building, and hence the villagers have decided to provide lessons to them through whatever means possible – in a dilapidated small mud hutment, without any basic amenities that a school ought to have.
The villagers of the district had been petitioning for a school since 2007. In 2010 they also donated land towards building the school. Seeing no progress over the last 12 years, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
Happily, despite having no proper infrastructure, the enthusiasm the students have shown towards learning is the reason why this school has been functioning.
The school currently has a primary wing for students in grades 1 to 5. Most of the students who come to attend this school are children of labourers. Karnik Padha, one of the youth leaders in the area working towards getting the school a basic building says, “The students are all between the age group of 5 to 10 years, and hence it is impossible for the parents to send them to schools which are at a distance. Private schools are also not an option given the cost that it involves.”
Karnik says, “Even the mid-day meal, which is a scheme that the government introduced, is being prepared in one of the villager’s homes and taken to the school every day.
“The villagers want to ensure that the school continues to function despite the problems they are facing. It just shows the importance they place on giving their children access to education.”
Come rain, sun or snow – these children sit either under the open sky or squeeze into one room that the school has and continue to study. The school has a total strength of 29 students as of date. A point to note is that the number of girls attending the school is equal to the number of boys.
When asked how Karnik got involved with the school, he says, “It was a chance visit to the scenic Kangra valley that got me in contact with these students. I remember seeing them sitting under a tree and studying.”
“I took to social media to highlight the plight of the students, and while the response was great, unfortunately, none of the government officials responded to it.”
Today, with the help of some well-wishers and the youth of the area, the school continues to function. What they need help with is building a permanent structure on the land that the villagers have donated for the school.
Karnik himself has sent many representations to the government urging them to look into the matter. An NGO called “Prayas se parivartan tak”, meaning ‘to try until change’, is providing stationary, uniforms, and even pays the fees of some of the children who show potential.
Karnik is hoping to generate enough interest both within the government and from responsible citizens to help build this school.
If you wish to help build this school, do reach out to Kanik via e-mail.