Three Years Ago He Started A Free Tuition To Help Kids , Today He Runs Three Free Schools For The Poor

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Would you believe that children are capable of managing themselves with integrity in a school? Not just young children but children who come from impoverished backgrounds, where every rupee is hard to come by will be honest and won’t take advantage of a situation where children can take anything from the school store and place the cost in the cash box nearby. Would you believe that such a thing can happen? Dev Kumar Verma has made this a reality in his school Pathshala.

Honesty Shop in the school

As of today, Dev and his team run two schools, one in Katras and the other one, in Bhagabasti, Jharkhand. The school in Bhagabasti was opened on 19 Feb 2018 and has already got 200 registrations and 60 admissions. To build the first school, Dev used his ancestral house and 40% of his salary. For the second school, he took the help of a crowdfunding website to raise Rs.6 lakh and built it in 3 months. Both the schools are located in coal belt areas where the children do not go to school since they cannot afford the fees.

The second school which was opened on 19 th Feb

How did the Pathshala begin?

Dev Kumar Verma was once attending an election duty in his village Katras, Dhanbad the venue for the election was a government school. In the desk were some leave letters written by nine and ten standard kids. He was shocked to find many spelling mistakes in the leave letters. Further, what shocked him more was the teachers accepting the leave letters without asking the students to correct the errors. In spite of taking up the matter to the CM, no concrete steps were taken by the government to address the issue. The sad situation of education in the school drove him to take start Pathshala school.

It was then that he and his wife Priyanka Verma decided to do something concrete to address the issue in their own capacity. Children need better learning, responsibility, values and independence. This is the moto with which Dev Kumar Verma started a tuition point for kids in his ancestral home which quickly became a full-fledged school, Pathshala for children up to class 5 as support from kids, parents and friends poured in. He converted his ancestral home into the school and soon turned it into an English-medium school.

Pathshala has all basic facilities such as dedicated teachers, separate toilets for girls and boys, a playground and water connection. He has also arranged auto- rickshaws for students residing in far- off places. He feels that even the poorest of poor should have access to good educational facilities which are at par with the ones in the big metros without having to pay any fees.

Mineral water facility for the students.

When Efforts For Good spoke to Dev Kumar, he said “ We thought, if we are able to make a difference even for a single student that is enough for us. What began as a small tuition point in 2014 became a full-fledged school by Mar 2015.” Dev felt this need all the more because he came from an impoverished background. He saw the struggles his father as a labourer needed to undergo to educate him. He thus wants children and their parents to not go through the battle that he endured in his life.

He wanted to extend the support he got from his uncle in pursuing his studies to all other kids in his village, to begin with. He thinks if he charges children fees even if it is a nominal amount then he won’t be very different than other private players in the market. It’s exploitative in his opinion. His desire to give back to the society to uplift the people is immense which is why almost 35-40% of his salary goes towards this school.

A classroom in the Pathshala

While the financial aspect takes care of one dimension of the problem, there is another crucial aspect that Dev believes that practical examples, role models in the society, attractive teaching through excellent storytelling are the ways forward for good teaching. He strongly believes that this is extremely crucial because he felt a void in his school life and longed for it when he was growing up.

Inculcating values among the children

Good teaching is essential to ensure kids imbibe the educational content as well as values.   To inculcate honesty in kids, Dev made brand new school essentials at 20% of the original price in the stationary shop. The name of this store is ‘Honesty shop’. Kids need to take the required stationary and pay the cost of the book into the box by themselves. In the beginning, Dev found that few kids are taking two pencils but putting the price of 1 pencil only in the cash box. They then started teaching what honesty is all about vigorously in the classrooms. They slowly started seeing the transformation. Now every student puts exact amount in the cash box. They also found that these results are more long lasting as there have been instances where children have requested their parents to not fight for money which is fleeting.

A student putting money in the cashbox in the honesty shop.

More and more children are now want to come to pathshala since kids are now doing well in competitions which include arts & crafts, science competitions, elocutions etc., The Parents are more than elated to see their children getting English education for free, which they would not have been able to afford otherwise.“I am happy to see my son Mohit learning Englishhe is teaching English alphabets to his friends” said Saraswati Devi, a household worker who clean the houses.

The school faces stiff competition from other established schools which try to lure children away by promising no fees but later on insisting kids pay fees. When kids were not able to pay fees they drop out of that private school. Dev reaches out to those students and assures them that they can join his school again.

Efforts For Good community applauds the tiresome efforts which Dev puts in educating these children from the underprivileged sections of the society. He is an inspiration for many of us.

For more details, visit Pathshala’s Facebook page or you can write to Dev Kumar Verma at [email protected]

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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