By Rashmi Ranjan Mohanty
Cuttack: Proving that meagre earnings don’t come in the way of helping out the needy if one has the intent, D Prakash Rao, a chaiwalla in the Millennium City, has been providing free education to underprivileged children in the slums of the city.
Rao, who owns a tea-stall in Buxi Bazaar area, runs a school- Asha Aswasana- of his own, making sure that no slum children of the locality would remain illiterate.
“Despite having earned a scholarship, I had to quit my studies as my father, who was a war veteran of World War-II, never encouraged me to go to school saying that education would yield no results. But, as I realise the value of education, I started teaching the children of my locality and tried to bring them into the main stream,” said Rao.
He said he had started the school having two rooms at his house way back in 2000. “Today the school has 70 students, who are imparted education up to Standard-III. Post the completion of standard III, I register their name in government schools,” Rao added.
Asked about how he runs the school with a small income from his tea shop, which is his only source of income, Rao said, “On an average I earn Rs 600 a day. I save half of my earning for the school and spend the rest for my family.”
“But, it is not easy to manage monthly expenses which are close to Rs 15,000 including the salary of five teachers. I used to offer milk and biscuits to the students of my school. Now, I am giving them rice and dalma in the lunch,” Rao informed.
“As the students of the school belong to poor family and their parents are mostly domestic help or rickshaw pullers, they are deprived of nutritional food. I have requested the district administration several times to provide lunch to these students under Aahar Scheme, but they turned downmy request saying that my school is not a government-aided school,” Rao stated.
“If the government can launch many schemes for the betterment of these underprivileged children, then why it is reluctant to provide meal to these children who in fact need proper nutrition? If a chaiwalla can feed them, why can’t the government?” he asked.
“There are many samaritan and organisations who have lent their support for the nobel cause of educating these children. Even some foreign nationals have lent their support to provide computer education to these children for whom computer was a dream”, Rao explained.
“Two foreign nationals- Crystal from USA and Evalina from Canada, who are on a visit to the city, are imparting computer education to the children on my school,” Rao revealed.
Sharing her experience as a teacher of the school, Evalina said, “I am teaching here since last six months. The children are very smart and learning things very quickly. I am in love with this place and would love to come here again and again to teach these students.”
Echoing similar views, Crystal said, “I am associated with these children since last two months and developed a good affection with them. I am really lucky that I got an opportunity to come here and helped them in their education.”
Besides, running the school, Rao is also committed to another major social service: blood donation.
Till date, he has donated 209 units of blood and has the distinction being the highest individual blood donor in Asia. Moreover, he has an emergency blood donor’s squad who are always ready to help anyone at any point of time round the clock.
A recipient of many awards and accolades at the state and national level, Rao is all set to add another feather to his cap as he has been selected for the prestigious Annie Besant Award in recognition of his yeoman service to the society.