Educating children in remote areas

Top Indian women achievers award of the Ministry of Women and Child Development in the field of education, which is supported by Facebook, will be given on January 22 at Rashtrapati Bhavan by the President. The Delhi-based Lalita Nijhawan is selected for her work in education for the children of Banswara village in Rajasthan.

A Facebook page and link to her body of work was promoted through ministry’s website and put to a three-layered online public voting. Based on public choice, Nijhawan got the support. She recalls that her work started in 1992, with the establishment of the Chandra Kanta Rajeshwar Dharmarat Trust (CKRDT), started by her father. It has been working for upliftment of poverty stricken through imparting education. Starting her work in Banswara in ’92 was one of her prime objective, as she had met a man from Banswara who had discussed the condition of the village to her.  She explains that she met him in the early 80s, when Banswara was a secluded village, there was no transport and the tribals didn’t even have clothes to wear, and they were prone to naru(guinea worm disease) in which worm like threads start coming out of wounded regions, due to the water they consumed.

“When we started our first school in 1992 there were three to four children and one teacher. The first few teachers left their job, because of the difficult living conditions. But being persistent we got some teachers sooner or later who stuck to the program long enough to educate some children till class 12. These children in-turn became teachers and are taking the tradition forward,” Nijhawan tells Metrolife.

In due course of time, Banswara received proper transport and people from nearby villages were called to teach. A few children who were orphaned, lost or picked up by relatives from conflict zones and disturbed areas of the Northeast also found their way to Banswara. The villages they came from also had similar problems of transport and were secluded. Getting knowledge, of the situation in a Tripura village, Nijhawan spread her education program there as well.

“Today Banswara can be called developed. The families have jobs for sustainable living. Many of these students hope to be doctors. CKRDT does not help in education after class 12. After finishing schools the families have to initiate the process of colleges admission. Most of them prefer teaching in schools, where they get paid from Rs 3,000 to 12,000 depending on the class they teach,” says Nijhawan. 

In the span of little over two decades, she was able to facilitate the functioning of 346 schools in Banswara with 42,000 children and 345 in with 12,000 children. These schools have produced some doctors, engineers, nurses, government employees as well. The award process began in July 2015 wherein the domain experts of the ministry researched the track records and struggle stories of thousands of such women achievers from India. These names were put in the public domain through the ministry’s website and put to a three-layered online public voting.

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