As a child, Dr. S.B.Misra walked 24 kilometres to and back from school in remote Uttar Pradesh, with a dream to educate the children in his region so that they would not have to undertake that long walk every day.
He was a brilliant student. From his village, he got an opportunity to get on a train for the first time, get on a plane for the first time, and travelled to Canada in the late 1960s to study geology.
Within months, he became a star in his scientific community when he discovered 565 million-years old fossils that were the oldest records of multicellular life on earth.
But he still agonised over the long walk to school, that thouands of children were still making in his rural backyard. Four years later, on his way to a career of fame and fortune, he quit and returned to his village — to fulfill his dream and set up his school. Now with his newly wedded wife, Nirmala, a city girl who had never been to a village and said: “What the heck, lets do this.”
They had gotten married in May 1972. Within weeks, she was wading through waist-deep floodwaters in remote Uttar Pradesh.
The school was set up. In an area where no girl had gone to school before, parents began sending daughters to study because there was a woman principal in Nirmala Misra.
The school has touched and transformed thousands of lives in an area where most of the residents are from the Scheduled Castes, who earlier had no access to education. And for the time time, girls began to study with the opening of the school, and numerous have changed their lives with education.
The story of Bharatiya Gramin Vidyalaya is an amazing journey of two extraordinary educationists and their single minded devotion to build a school and ensure quality education for the rural poor. Four decades into its seminal work, the Indian Village School or BGV today reaches nearly 700 students in one of the most feudal and backward pockets of the country, an outcome of the single minded dedication of two incredible people. Yet, the resources or support available to the organization are still very minimal.
Consider this. There is no High School in a radius of about 400 square kilometres. The nearest railway station is 12 kms away; the nearest post offices are 7 kms away in district Lucknow and 4 km in district Barabanki. Nearest bank and police station are at 8 kms away. Roads and electricity have only recently arrived.
Most of the villagers do farming but the yield is poor. Main crops are wheat, paddy, cane sugar (now decreasing in area). Mentha is the cash crop but water logging poses a major hurdle for this crop. Dairy farming is not favoured now but a few farmers, generally OBC, sell buffalo milk. There are no industries and employment potential is negligible except spade-work under NREGA.
Amidst this, BGV has 700 students from Class I to Class X and 17 teachers, surviving the greatest odds, fighting to manifest the right to basic education especially for girls and the truly underprivileged.
If you can, help the school. We urgently need winter essentials for the children, who often come wearing just flimsy shirts in the searing winters.
— Going forward, we want to build a knowledge centre where they can watch BBC and IGNOU videos — and movies.
— We are trying to create India’s first professionally run rural newpaper, managed entirely by the rural students but using software used in newsrooms around the world.
— We are trying to set up a rural call centre/information centre to provide widely needed information to villagers, as well as give employment to the rural “white collar” youth. This is a model we feel can be replicated across India.
— We have already a pilot project running to create rural computer teachers even as we provide computer education to rural children.
If you’d like to help, please mail Dr. S.B. Misra directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and join his efforts.
Believe us, you can make a difference. And it will make you a happier person to have helped someone.
All of us at BGV