Every day, Narayana Naik steps out of his house at 8 am and rides his old Honda Dream bike to schools, colleges, government offices and private organisations. By the time he reaches home, it is past 6 pm. “Last year alone, I visited around 200 schools in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi,” says the 80-year-old.
Why, you may ask?
Naik, from Karpe village in Bantwal taluk of Dakshina Kannada, has been on a unique mission, helping school and college students pursue higher education by providing them scholarships.
Not a single day goes by without him visiting schools and colleges or the houses of students, orienting and interacting with them and guiding them to find the right scholarships.
Known to most as “scholarship master”, the retired government high school teacher has touched the lives of over a lakh students in the past several decades providing them with scholarships worth crores.
After a 38-year-long teaching career, Naik who retired in 2001, chose to spend his golden years actively involved in social work rather than at home with his children and grandchildren.
“I have been doing this ever since I was working as a school teacher. Post-retirement, I am glad that I got even more time to be involved in it. Now I am fully focused on helping students by being their resource person for scholarships,” says Naik, who receives a pension of Rs 40,000 and spends more than half of it on travelling expenses.
He says, education is the key to success and therefore it is essential to make use of all the opportunities available.
A desire to learn
Growing up in a poor agricultural family, Naik recalls the struggles he had to face to pursue an education. He says, “My father wanted to discontinue my education after class 5 as he couldn’t afford it. But I never wanted to give up. So, I followed Gandhi ji’s ideology and did satyagraha or hunger strike at home for days. This made my father change his mind and I was sent back to school again!”
“The same happened after my class 8. I used the same trick to make him change his mind and it worked again, like magic,” he chuckles.
From walking around 16 km daily to his school barefoot, Naik went on to study B Ed and MA degrees in Kannada and Hindi. He started his career as a primary school teacher at the age of 20. Later, he worked as a high school teacher as well as a school inspector before his retirement.
“I had to struggle a lot for my studies and it is my life experiences that made me think of ways in which I can help students,” he adds.
“There are several scholarships provided by the government and private entities but there is a lack of awareness among students about these scholarships and how to avail them. So, my efforts have been focussed on sourcing all the available scholarships, creating awareness about them among students and helping the most deserving students avail them,” he explains.
There are different types of scholarships that can be availed by students based on different criteria. “There are scholarships provided by the government and non-government entities like trusts and foundations, based on merit, caste or religion, labour and so on,” says Naik, who also does follow-ups on applications until it is approved by the concerned authority.
To find the most deserving student, Naik says, “I always give priority to government school/college students who do well in school. I interact with them and collect information regarding their family background. After that, I visit their houses to check the legitimacy of the information provided by them. Once confirmed, I let them know about the scholarships they can avail themselves and help them with the procedures as well,” he elaborates.
Besides, he also connects underprivileged students to different NGOs and foundations to help them with scholarships or sponsorships. “Nearly Rs 16 lakh per year has been provided as scholarships from different organisations like Suprajit foundation, Dyuti foundation and so on,” he says, adding, “More than 1 lakh students have benefited in the past two decades, with scholarships that are worth around Rs 5 crore.”
Knowing him for the past 25 years, Hariprasad Shetty, principal of Government First Grade College in Vamadapadavu, says that he is one of the most selfless individuals he has ever met in his life. “Students in rural areas, like ours, have benefited a lot through his efforts. He visits our college very often and conducts orientation for the students about scholarships. He also makes sure that the most deserving ones get the scholarship and help them even with filling in their applications. It is impressive that he is so energetic even at the age of 80,” he says.
“Other than providing scholarships he sometimes offers monetary help to poor students from his own pension money,” he adds.
Dr Yogish Kairodi, who currently works as a lecturer at Alva’s College in Moodubidire, Karnataka, recalls how Narayan Naik had helped him pursue his post-graduation by finding him a scholarship. “I would say, he is a ‘library of scholarships’ and he has been visiting almost all the schools and colleges in this region for decades. He helped me avail a government scholarship while I was pursuing my post-graduation and it took care of my college fee. It is truly inspiring that he is continuing his social service, even at this age,” says Dr Yogish, who later pursued his PhD in Kannada.
Naik adds, “I consider this as my duty to help poor students find hope through education. I always relate to their struggles and I am trying to give back as much as I can. I might be 80 but I am glad that I am healthy enough to go around doing some good.”
Edited by Yoshita Rao