It was a long time ago that Ajita Toppo first came to the remote North Bengal hamlet of Nagrakata. When the young bride started her new life in this unknown place, she realised to her surprise that there was no school there. Born and brought up in South Kolkata’s Alipore, Ajita had studied till class10 before getting married and understood how important education was. She started worrying about her first-born Jaya’s education.
However, she wasn’t someone who’d lose hope and leave things to fate.
She decided to become the change that she wished for and started teaching children of tea plantation workers in the village at her home, free of cost.
“See, when I started, there wasn’t a single school in this village. This was back in 1988. I thought, if I wait for someone else to open a school, I’d have to sit waiting forever. I didn’t have any facilities, not even a simple blackboard back then. But despite that, the number of children kept increasing,” recalls Ajita.
Now, after 30 years of hard work, Ajita has managed to build a school called Rose Land Primary School with a student strength of over 130. Established and sustained by Ajita alone for years, the school slowly gathered support of the community and people started helping in many ways.
“I don’t own my house, we rent this place. I was teaching children in my living room, but when the numbers started rising it wasn’t feasible. So I rented a place in the village and started conducting the classes there. These children come from destitute families, who wouldn’t have been able to afford high amount for fees, so I started taking only Rs 20 from them,” says Ajita.
For years together, Ajita bore most of the expense of the school. Her family, too, supported her decision wholeheartedly.
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Owing to her dedication, practical and innovative ways of teaching and love for her students, the number of children kept increasing further. The rented house was not able to accommodate all the students.
In 2014, a local person Sunil Kujur donated a piece of land for the school. With the help of the community, Ajita managed to raise the school building within a year. A local NGO Maha Jiban has donated learning material to her school like Lego building blocks, an iPad, Wi-Fi connection, abacus as well as some stationery.
Today, Ajita, her daughter Jaya and five other youths from the village are teaching in the school. Now, Ajita has turned to crowd-funding for making more facilities available to her students.
“We have over 130 students and seventeachers, but there’s only one toilet. We need to construct separate toilets for boys and girls as well as the staff. It is not possible to pay sufficient wages to the teachers at present. They are working out of passion, but I wish to be able to remunerate properly. Also, some of my students come from a distance of 10-15 km every day to school. They cover this distance mostly on foot. I wish to arrange for a school van to pick them up. That’s why my daughter suggested that we start a crowdfunding campaign,” says Ajita.
To contribute to Ajita’s crowdfunding campaign on Milaap, click here.