Vijaipur (Gopalganj), Feb. 22: Children of the Mahadalit slum of Sarupai village under Vijaipur block of the district, who used to learn how to catch rats till a year ago, now greet visitors with "How are you?"
Many of them are learning Hindi and English. They can also surprise you by reciting "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".
Laxmina ' a resident of the slum and an Intermediate student at Jamukha Inter College, Vijaipur ' has brought about this wonderful transformation.
The 19-year-old girl, who passed matriculation with a first division in 2010, has started to teach boys and girls of her slum.
She told The Telegraph: "The residents of my basti (slum) are plagued with illiteracy, poverty and many other adversities. The adults work as labourers to sustain their families. The children just while away the time. There is no school here to instruct the children about the basics."
Laxmina added: "Education is the only weapon against the sting of poverty. Only education can help poor people like us prosper."
For her students, she is Shiksha Didi. Every morning and evening 193 children of the slum turn up at her hut to learn their letters and gain an entrance into the world of literacy. Illiterate adult women of the village are also her pupils.
Laxmina, however, did not have an easy entrance into the world of letters. As a child, she used to assist her father, Raja Ram Mandal, a farm labourer. But she always harboured the dream to being educated.
"Once I saw a group of schoolchildren from another village. I wanted to join them. So I told my father about my dream while working in the fields one day. He took me to Manpur School, around 7km away," she reminisced.
In school, her teacher Chanda Devi helped her. Devi convinced the principal of the school to allow her to study without paying fees.
After her matriculation, Laxmina went to each house of her slum and persuaded the parents to send their children to her. The parents of the children were only to happy to take advantage of such voluntary service. The slum has no electricity connection or basic facilities. A school is a far cry.
Sources in the block office ' only 4km away ' said a school had been opened in the slum in 2010. Villagers claim that was only on paper, as they have no idea about the location of the school building and have never seen a teacher come to their slum.
A villager said: "We have never seen a teacher come here. We don't even know about the location of the school."
Vijaipur block is under Bhore Assembly segment ' a reserved constituency represented in the House by Indra Deo Manjhi of the BJP.
Asked if Laxmina's efforts would get the help of the authorities, district education officer Satyendra Bhushan told The Telegraph: "Such efforts are of course praiseworthy. But first, we must find out why the school is not running. Perhaps the teachers take classes somewhere else because the school does not have a building."
Chairperson of the district education board Chanda Devi said an inquiry would be conducted to ascertain whether the school exists or not and if the teacher take class.
She said: "Action would be taken against teachers who draw salary without taking classes."
Laxmina though is not bothered with official intricacies or what the future has in store for her.
Asked what she would do if she get married, Laxmina boldly replies: "I will continue wit my pursuit no matter what. I will ensure that my father and the other villagers carry on with what I have started."