A School On People's Initiative
It all started in March 1994. About thirty people of the village Bhainsaha, near Reoti in Ballia district were meeting to discuss the possibility of starting a primary school for their children. Before that, for about a month the children of this and some neighboring villages had been getting together in a mango grove and had informally begun the process of their education. They had managed to bring some slates lying around in their homes and were quite innovative in using small mud balls, normally used in catapults to drive away the monkeys, in place of chalk. In fact, these mud balls were writing quite well on the slates. The children would also play 'kabaddi' and other games and some of them would try their hands on riding bicylce. There was a large open space available for such activities. It was the villagers who wanted to regularize this informal gathering of children and give it a shapte of a school by appointing a regular teacher. They saw it as a excellent opportunity to provide formal education to their children and more importatnly, saw the possibility of children being engaged in constructive activity instead of idling away their time. Ram Prasad Yadav, who owned some land adjacent to the mango grove, volunteered to let half a 'bigha' of his land be used for this school. It was decided to erect a temporary structure made of hay and bamboo, populary known as 'palani', to begin with. Everybody, assembled there volunteered to donate some bamboo or bundles of hay. People who could not give either of these ,offered small financial donations of Rs. 5 to Rs. 20 each to meet expenses of bying rope and other material. Two labourere were hired and rest of the labor was volunteered by the people. In a week's time the 'palani' was up. The school got going. Harihar Pandey, who has his fields less than half a kilometer from the school site, volunteered to teach at the school. He has earned a B.A. degree but begin unable to find a job was engaged in farming, in land owned by his family. The villagers took a decision to institute a moderate fee of Rs. 5 per month for each child and it was also decided that the amount collected from fees would be kept by Harihar as his renumeration. It was debated whether any fees should be charged at all and in the end most people opined that a small fees must be charged in exchange for the educatijon given. People thought that if it was made free then it would not be valued by the parents. In April, the heat had become unbearable and the people started feeling the need for a hand-pump near the school site. By this time many children from nearby villages, Bhisia and Rakham, had aslo started coming to school. Hence, Harihar went to these villages as well, besides Bhainsaha, and explained the situation to lot of people. People came up with donations - some even with Rupee 1 and Rupees 2. The money was collectd and a hand-pump installed. This hand-pump, it later turned out was a boon for people coming frooom far off villages going to Reoti. Reoti serves as a market for villages as far away as 4 to 5 km. The school in Bhainsaha falls in their way. Some of the people frequently using this path weer seen blessing the school for providing this hand-pump.