“We get offers from the nearby competitor schools, too, to join on a higher salary. But money is not what I am here for. I want to give and gain knowledge. That’s what a teacher is supposed to do, isn’t it?” says Priyanka Jaiswal, a teacher at Ajivam School in Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh.
Ajivam School was founded by Surya Sen Singh, a resident of Kansaharia, to help underprivileged children, especially girls, get education at a minimal cost.
Priyanka, a B.Sc. graduate in botany and a student of Bachelors of Teaching Course, could have landed a better-paying job in any of the top private schools. However, she has decided to dedicate her life to educate the children of Ajivam.
Her decision has roots in her own struggle to reach where she is today as a girl from a remote village in Uttar Pradesh.
Priyanka’s family comes from Sarhara village Uttar Pradesh’s Mau district. The family, however, set up a business in Kolkata and lived there.
When Priyanka was born, her mother, who was suffering from a mental illness,was unable to take care of her.She was brought up by her grandparents. Priyanka loved her school in Kolkata and topped her class every year. But when she was in class 5, her grandparents decided to move back to their village in UP and took Priyanka along.
The village school was only till class 10, and the junior college there did not offer a course in science, which Priyanka wanted to take up. However, her family did not allow her to leave the village to study in a college 10 km away that offered the science stream.
“There were no girls from the village who had taken mathematics as the village junior college offered only arts subject. No one allowed their daughters to travel 10 km to study. But I fought with my family for this and would walk 10 km every day to reach to my college in Chiriyapur market,” says Priyanka.
But her fight didn’t end there. Her family fixed her marriage when she was still in class 11.
She somehow convinced her parents to postpone the wedding for the next two years until she finished her junior college. She passed class 12 with flying colours and took admission in B.Sc. But her parents could not wait any longer, and got her married when she was in the first year to Vijay Jaiswal from Kansaharia village.
Luckily Priyanka’s in-laws and her husband were supportive and she was able to study further. She soon got pregnant and delivered her son just before the second year exams.
In the third year, she rented a room in Azamgarh and stayed there to do regular classes while also taking care of her 6-month-old baby.
Through her entire journey, Priyanka wanted to do something for the girls of her village, who were deprived of education just because of their gender. She got the opportunity while doing her teachers training course, when Ajivam came into existence.
“I teach them computers and I make sure that they don’t have to do an extra course to learn anything about computers like I did,” says Priyanka.
Priyanka is determined to study M.Sc. (Botany) after she finishes BTC, but insists she will remain in Ajivam even if she gets more degrees.
Ajivam is now working on opening a public library in Ghazipur. With this library, the school wants to serve local communities by providing free and easy access to a broad range of knowledge resources, information and training. It also wants to promote the idea of higher education for girls and self-dependence through better employment for the village residents.
Priyanka says she feels the library would be beneficial for both the students as well as teachers.
“I always study before teaching topics to students. It puts me in a position to explain things better to children. And it is an iterative process, where my understanding of the subject improves; my approach to teaching improves whenever there is feedback from students. It allows me to grow as a teacher, as a person. It is a very interesting process and I am really enjoying it,” she said.
A library will help immensely as it will allow students, who don’t have such books, get access to it. And students will find a place to study in their free time. It will also add to the atmosphere of learning and students will tend to study more because of that. For me, I’ll be able study and prepare for classes. And if there are books on botany, then I would be able to read it as I want to pursue my Masters in Botany. It will help us a lot,” she adds.
While the founder of Ajivam, Surya, has started the school using his own money, he is now raising funds to equip the library with the required resources. You can donate to help him here.
Interested in supporting Surya? Here’s the link to his crowdfunding campaign!‘
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You can also contribute books and computers by clicking here.
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