The year is 1986. A 19-year-old teenager from India’s Golden district, Kolar, has arrived in his city of dreams, Bengaluru, with only one shirt and trouser. Although he has no place to live and no money to purchase food, it is his passion for starting a school that keeps him going.
Cut to 2019.
Now a grown-up man, he has not only fulfilled his vision of becoming a teacher but has also opened a free school for children who cannot afford a primary education.
Meet Narayana Swamy B, a living example of #LifeGoals.
When Narayana’s parents passed away 33 years ago, he had aspired to become a doctor and was preparing for his class 12 board exams. The tragic death of his parents left him with no option but to take up odd jobs.
Being one of the brightest students in his village, Kurgal, he decided to study. With no other alternative left, he packed his bags and headed straight to Karnataka’s capital city with a hidden passion for teaching.
Recalling his struggling days, Narayana tells The Better India,
When I was leaving my village, I only had one goal–to ensure that children who want to study did not have to struggle like me–to provide them with the platform that I was deprived of. From taking up odd jobs, consuming water instead of a meal, to sleeping on pavements, I did everything to save money and open a school.
In his initial years in the city, he worked as a labourer while preparing for Teacher Education (TCH-ED). He cleared the examination and was certified to practice teaching. After that, getting a job in a primary school was a cakewalk for him.
However, his teacher’s salary and savings weren’t enough. To fuel his dream of opening a school, he had to sell his share of property and two oxen in his village, even take loans from his friends.
In 1990, with just about five students, he opened Sri Vidhodaya Higher Primary School in Kuvempu Nagar. The Kannada and Tamil-medium school admitted students from class 1 to 7.
For teaching staff, he hired educated people from rural areas. This ensured a source of income for the needy and promised a dignified job for them.
His vision was simple – to provide uniforms, stationery, bags, books and mid-day meals to every student in the school.
With time, as the students and teachers increased, Narayana found it difficult to sustain the school and provide salaries to the staff.
Instead of succumbing to the financial pressures and choosing to only provide education to the children, he explored several options. For instance, with the help of his elder brother, he started a travel agency. Through this, whatever money he made, he used for the school.
At times, he would even approach his businessmen friends to finance the school. He also opened a hostel to provide free accommodation to children who were willing to study in his school. However, due to fewer admissions in the hostel, he eventually had to shut it down.
In 2008, the government finally started sanctioning salaries for 12 teachers.
Upon visiting the school, one may find the same facilities prevalent in any private or government school.
We have tried to provide every facility to ensure all-round development. Like any other school, we have cultural activities and sports; we try to celebrate every special occasion. Some of our students have even represented the state in sports, including running and Discuss Throw, says Narayana proudly.
When asked how his school was different from other institutions, he is quick to point out one crucial point – the teacher’s approach.
“Unlike other teachers, our teachers visit the student’s home regularly to monitor the child’s growth and development. On occasions where the child suddenly stops attending the school, the teacher meets with his/her parents to resolve the issue. We even visit houses where children aren’t enrolled in any school to convince them to attend our school. We believe that teachers play an integral role in a student’s life,” he says.
Narayana believes that his past struggles were solved as they were temporary. Today, however, the biggest problem is maintaining the strength of the school.
At one point, our school had a strength of more than 700 students with hostels. But now, since there are no takers for Kannada and Tamil-medium, the strength has dropped to 300 students. But the school still works with the same intentions it was built with, says the 52-year-old.
The school recently completed 28 years and has been instrumental in providing education to thousands of students, giving them a life of dignity and respect.
Describing Narayana’s journey, his daughter Madhuri V N, an engineering student, concludes,
“Coming from a middle-class family, it was anything but difficult for him to create his own path. Defying all kinds of odds, he turned his dream into a reality. Today, he is respected in the family, among his business friends, and the students who found decent jobs after graduating from his school. I am honoured and proud to be his daughter.”
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)