Dr. Rathore's Impossible School in Vidya Kunj

Dr. Trilok Kumar Jain
Published on: 14th January 2014
ShivBari is a suburb area near Bikaner, which is inhabited by people belonging to lower and middle class. These people rely on animal husbandry, masonry, and daily wage earnings for their survival. They are not blessed with good educational background; hence none of them is in government service or in white collar jobs. Their work schedule also percolates down to their children, who also inherit similar circumstances. "I get up at 4 am, distribute newspapers, go to school, return to home to serve my cows, prepare food and rush to my father with a Tiffin, then again go to school to finish my homework and return back in the late evening to help my mother in her work" - says Rameshwar.

This is the typical schedule of students who study in Vidya Kunj. Vidya Kunj is for the students who are also earning members of their families. While you may shun child labour, this is a harsh reality. For many families, it is difficult to make both ends meet and therefore every member is an earning member. Children also play their part. They contribute to the income of the family.

Dr. Rathore doesn't ask them to quit work, nor does he ask the family members to remove the child from work. He has carved out a school that supports such students. His school charges very low fees (approx. $1 per month). The students are given homework, but Dr. Rathore knows that the students cannot do home work at their homes, hence he calls the students in evenings for home work sessions. The students sit with Dr. Rathore to discuss the concepts and undertake preparation for their examinations. The students compete with students of other schools in board examinations and outperform. Vidya Kunj is truly a school which makes education accessible to those students, for whom it would have been impossible otherwise.
Dr. Rathore creates and nurtures a climate for education. He motivates parents, children, neighbours, and all those who meet him in the streets. It is his sheer passion that is driving force behind the school. He shares inspiring stories of modern day role models with the students to motivate them for achievement (for example, he shares many instances of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, our former president with the students).

In appearance the school seems very simple with bare necessities, however, in terms of values, creativity and involvement of students, the school is starkly different. The students manage the school and create an orderly arrangement. Most of the students have to manage their home crafts and businesses (which are mostly related to animal husbandry, cottage industry or related businesses). These students remain punctual and disciplined beyond imagination. They are outstanding executives. When it is 15 August or 26 January, they religiously arrange the school campus and undertake meticulous planning. The guests who come on the occasion, whisper that they can't find such students even in public schools.
Dr. Rathore himself is a professor of economics. He spared his time to build this school brick by brick. He used his savings and his network to support this school. He is rarely found in his home and is mostly seen in and around Shiv Bari area, where he is talking to people, interacting with students and motivating parents. He visits door to door requesting people to send their students to school. He recalls with pride that the school started with just 7 students in 2002 in a rented place (which was a poultry farm before that), and today it has over 300 students, most of whom would never had been to school otherwise. With his small savings, he purchased the school building in 2004 and built one room in each year thereafter to strengthen the school infrastructure. His creativity and low cost construction techniques enabled him to build a great school out of his small individual savings. Today he finds the students from the first few batches pursuing vocational education and professional education. Girdhari Singh, a chokidar, in a nearby college sent his daughters for education upon Dr. Rathore's request. Today his daughters are about be become engineers, which Girdhari Singh could never even dream of.

Social Entrepreneurship is never really about the money or place or facilities available. It just takes one man with enough leadership in him and a vision to educate the people around him. We appreciate Dr. Rathore for an initiative of this kind and for keeping it going for more than 10 years now. We hope to inspire a lot more leaders through stories like Dr. Rathore's.
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