Mrunal Manmay Dash

It is said the future of any country depends on its children and in a world of cut throat competition, education alone holds key to touch new heights amid continuous struggles to prove one’s mettle.

The remote Gatamaha village under G Udaygiri block of Kandhamal district has produced a promising youth in the form of Rajesh Bagarty, presently pursuing his research in History at the Ravenshaw University in Cuttack, who has taken upon himself the task of changing the destiny of his village through educating the children.

Being a research scholar himself, Rajesh knows the value of education and it pained him to see children of his village deprived of basic education, especially during the COVID crisis which hastened the shutting down of schools across the State. It was then he took it upon himself the responsibility of ensuring seamless education to the village kids by arranging the necessary finances from his pocket and the little he got as stipend from the University for his own studies.

Quoting a line from apartheid revolutionary, statesman and philanthropist, Nelson Mandela, Rajesh said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Continuing, he said, “I saw the standard of education gradually declining in my village and the students losing interest in studies. So, I started teaching the students from class 1-10 at my home, whenever I came to my village from Cuttack.”

The students who have enrolled in his class which runs in two shifts--from 8am to 10 am and 6pm to 9pm-- are quite happy to having a teacher like Rajesh who understands their financial condition and helps them whatever he could from his meagre stipend to buy them slate, books and pens.

“Our school was closed during this lockdown. We did not even have smart phones for online classes. At this juncture, he came here as a blessing and taught all of us,” said a class-10 student from the village.

At a time when youths are increasingly heading for cities to earn money after studies, Rajesh’s efforts to make his village lads educated is nothing short of a return gift to his homeland which brought him up and made whatever he is now. Needless to say the service and dedication of the young teacher has earned accolades from across the Panchayat.

Not just education, Rajesh is active in resolving infrastructure, healthcare and drinking water issues that have been bogging down Gatamaha since ages, said a villager.

Heaping praise on Rajesh, a woman from his village said, “He comes once every six months and devotes all his time in getting our children educated. We do not have the means to send our kids to schools and provide them quality education. If not for him, our kids would have been left without education.”

Rajesh is on a mission that, he said, will be completed only after he ensured an overall change in the education scenario of the village. “As long as the standard of education is low in our country we cannot really hope of becoming developed nation,” he said.