BiharWhy! An incongruous and curious name. And yet this the one C has chosen for a the brand new education centre located in a little village in Bihar's Supaul District. I must admit quite sheepishly that when C had murmured: to go to the village in Bihar and start a branch of pwhy after my long an exasperated diatribe, I had not believed him though I had lauded his intention and offered all support. Imagine my surprise when I got an email from C last week telling me that BiharWhy had been launched. The mail also had some pictures attached.
I sat for a long time looking at the pictures and slowly imbibing their stupendous meaning. The open air class, the little white mats on the mud floor, the lovely children and their teacher. It was a dream come true. I could not believe that something I had always held close to my heart had seen the light of day.
When one had taken the decision to only employ people from within the community to steer project why, notwithstanding qualifications et al, there was a covert reason: the hope that one day these very people would take ownership of the programme and take it back to their place of origin. That is why we had employed young people who had left their villages and come to the city in search of a better morrow. C was one such person. When he came to us with his half baked degree from Bihar and some vague skills (fine and art and electrical work!) we employed him to teach the primary children. Over the years C honed his knowledge, took extra classes and graduated to teaching secondary children as well as repairing broken fuses and painting the odd signboard! At that time he seemed set to continue as a teacher with pwhy for a long time. But that was not to be.
When we posted him to another centre he refused the move quite vehemently and I must admit that it was a shocker. I could have reacted as violently and dismissed him for dereliction of duty, but I have always been quite fond of this young man and even if that was not the case, the spirit of pwhy did not allow me the luxury of that decision. This was another why to be answered, a loud one that was a portent of things to come. So I gently proffered some options, one being to take back all he had learnt with us to his village. The seed had been sown. Time would tell whether it would take roots. If it did, then my absurd dream of reverse migration would have been fulfilled.
BiharWhy has seen the light of day. It is a reality today with over 50 children getting access to better education. C surveyed the area, met parents, the local authorities and everyone that mattered. Having been 'in the city' for almost a decade has paid as he is somewhat looked upon as the prodigal son that has returned. Everyone was willing to listen to him and wanted him to share his experiences and knowledge. So when he suggested he start a centre like the one in Delhi everyone was a taker.
But this is only the first step. The acid test is yet to be passed. BiharWhy has to survive and thrive and stand on its own. The road is along and not without obstacles. Bihar is not an easy place to operate in and had its own set of whys that will need to be tacked with caution. C will have to battle the administration, the local political power and the complex social problems with patience and determination.
I shared all my concerns with him as I know how difficult it is to survive and thrive! I told him of all the things we had done wrong in the hope that we would not make the same mistakes but it would be foolish to think that things will be easy. I juts hope and pray that he succeeds.
Note: C needs help and support. So of you think this brave venture is worth it, do lend a hand.