When it starts raining in the Darugre village of Meghalaya, it spells closing time for the local school. Clutching their books and shielding themselves from the downpour, the kids make their way back home. The rain shows no signs of stopping and the children must reach the safety of their homes to avoid getting stuck in the hailstorm.
Meghalaya receives severe rainfall during monsoons, with some of its cities having continuous rains throughout the year. Under such circumstances, the buildings that are not built on a solid foundation become danger zones for people in and around them. For the Darugre children, their old school building was one such risky area.
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IFS officer Gunanka D B saw their plight and decided to act upon it. He was assigned the Meghalaya cadre in May 2018. When the monsoons began in the North-Eastern state, the IFS officer was informed of the children’s situation.
The school is a little further away from his jurisdiction, but this technicality did not stop him from collecting Rs 2.85 lakh to help them!
Speaking to The Better India, he says, “The children were leaving the school premises every time it rained and wouldn’t return till it stopped. This is a very remote area—not even as big as a block, and the infrastructure is not up to the mark. So I decided to help the school. When I asked the local contractor about the cost of the repair work, he estimated between Rs 3-4 lakh, an amount neither the villagers nor I could afford.”
So, as the Assistant Conservator of Forest, currently working in Williamnagar, Gunanka decided to tap into his affluent circle. Sending a message for help on behalf of the school, he informed them why the school needed urgent renovation.
The roof tiles were in a fragile state, letting rainwater leak. The walls were broken in places and so were the floors. Unrepaired and unhinged windows posed yet another danger for the children. Repairing all of this invited high expenses.
“There are 200 students in the primary and upper primary schools, and eight teachers. Renovating the physical infrastructure could serve as the first step to optimise the quality of their education.”
The generosity of his friends and family can be seen in the donation amount he collected—Rs 2.85 lakh!
Fortunately for Gunanka, the government also released some grants to fix the roof of the rural school. Combining both funds, he got the windows, walls, floors, and of course, the roof of the school fixed. The work was recently completed, in the last week of June 2019!
“We have used better quality roof tiles now. We also fixed some branches of nearby trees to eliminate the risk of them breaking windows or the roof. The renovation will ensure that the school stays strong in the regular hailstorms for at least a few years. The result of our work is immediately visible since the children visit the school without any fear now,” the 2016-batch IFS officer shares.
How much this a simple act of repairing the walls of a school meant to the villagers can be best understood by their gesture when Gunanka was transferred to Williamnagar.
Insisting that the IFS officer made a pit stop at Darugre on his way to the newly-assigned area, the villagers assembled and thanked him for ensuring the safety of their kids even amidst heavy rains in the village.
He shares, “I worked as a software engineer for several years in Bengaluru, but that never gave me satisfaction. Serving the society, I realised, is my true passion, and I hope to utilise my position as an IFS officer to its full potential. After repairing the damages, we have requested the district administration for extra toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and the request has been approved. Through our forest department, we are providing the school with some furniture. This, too, has been sanctioned.”
Although Gunanka has brought about a positive change, he remains humble. “Credit if any, should go to my friends and family who donated for the cause without a second thought. I was just the face of the change. And special thanks to the staff of Darugre Forest Range and teachers for monitoring the work carefully,” he concludes.
If you wish to reach out to Gunanka, please drop an email on email@example.com.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Images Courtesy: Gunanka D B