Every now and then, we come across heartrending and poignant tales of teachers in India who the extra mile to provide quality education to children, or just education for that matter.
In fact, we have covered many such great educators from across the country at The Better India, and you can read some of the stories here.
But what 29-year-old Rajnikant Mendhe, the only government-appointed schoolteacher for the village of Chandar in the Velhe taluk of Maharashtra, does every single day to reach the school and that too, to teach just one student, will leave you feeling overwhelmed!
And this, he has been doing for eight long years!
Chandar is an isolated village located about 100 kms away from Pune, and lack of even rudimentary roads makes it even more difficult and risky to reach the village that is home to 15 huts, 60 residents and a large population of snakes.
With the exception of eight-year-old Yuvraj Sangale, there isn’t a single child from the village who studies at the tiny four-walled structure that they call the school. Built in 1985, it was only recently that the structure even got an asbestos roof.
Despite all the underlying dangers to his own life, Rajnikant travels in his bike from his home at Khanapur and powers through a 12-km mud track each day that passes through the hilly terrains with 400ft drops on either side.
Funnily enough, every day after reaching the school, Rajnikant has to look for his only student. “I often spot him hiding in the trees. Sometimes I get him from his hut. I understand his reluctance. He has to go to school without friends. Why would anyone look forward to classes here?” he told The Times of India.
Eight years ago, when Rajnikant had begun to teach at Chandar, there were about 11 kids, many of whom dropped out later due to the lack of nearby higher education facilities. Upon finding that many of his girl students were sent to work as daily-wage labourers at farms or factories in Gujarat, he tried very hard to persuade the parents to allow them to return to school, but all his efforts were in vain.
In his daily journey to Chandar, Rajnikant doesn’t just struggle with the travelling part. In fact, the poor man has had many encounters with snakes but has fortunately escaped unscathed each time.
Sadly, it is not just the school that is underprovided and ill-equipped. Chandar itself lacks essential facilities like electricity, streetlights, medical centres or even scope for employment. Here, the livelihood for remaining inhabitants is limited to rearing cows and stone breaking.
Most people have left the village in search of a better job and educational opportunities in cities and towns, which resulted in Yuvraj getting left behind as the lone student.
However, Rajnikant isn’t one who gives up easily and tries to make the best of what he can do for Yuvraj. With a tiny TV set and few wires, he managed to set up an “e-learning facility.”
“The village officials provided us with a 12-volt solar panel about two years ago. I use it to power a TV that screens downloaded content. I later bought two tablets to boost Yuvraj’s interest in the world beyond,” the dedicated teacher added.
Despite Yuvraj’s reluctance to come to study and the lack of any type of aid from the government or educational sector, Rajnikant continues to persist, knowing that there won’t be any other guiding light in the young boy’s life otherwise.
Truly embodying the ancient Indian tenet of ‘Guru Devo Bhava,’ maybe someday Yuvraj will appreciate his guru’s dedication and how far he went to teach him.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)