Long before the Right to Education Act was a possibility, one teenager was quietly doing his part to ensure that the literary rates were up. You won’t find much about Babar Ali on the internet. For most part Google kept giving me results about some Pakistani actor of the same name. I have never ever met him in person. But I was so overawed by what I did learn about him online that I decided to write about him straightaway.
By the time he was nine Ali had realized that education was his passion. But the sad state of literacy and indifferent attitude to learning in the tiny little village that he hails from greatly disturbed the little boy’s mind. He decided to do something about it. Born in a poor family himself he had no money and no other resources, other than his conviction, which could aid him in upholding his ideals. Armed with only that he set up a school where children from the village could come and learn to their heart’s content. No fees were charged and he did his best to supply them with books and other necessities. There was no money for salary to be paid to teachers. So Ali and his friends studied during the day and taught the other children in the evenings. Today, the school has been in existence for quite a number of years and boasts of about 800 students. There are five teachers, all aged between thirteen and eighteen, and are students themselves. The government promised to sponsor the midday meal of the students but mostly he has to depend on private donations to keep matters afloat. It has been a struggle so far but the endeavor has had its rewards. At 16, Babar Ali became the youngest principal in the world. It was indeed a hefty honor and a heavy responsibility. But, most importantly it was a worthy legacy.
But those who had declared him to be the world’s youngest principal did not know about the existence of a little wonder by the name of Bharti Kumari who is 14 years old and lives in Bihar. She became a principal at the age of twelve!
Bharti Kumari walks two miles to school every day and then passes on the knowledge to fifty village kids, ranging from ages four to ten. She teaches them Hindi, English and mathematics. Just like the pupils of Babar Ali, these poverty stricken kids would have had no access to education, had it not been for their industrious little headmistress.
Bharti herself had a rough entry into the world when she was abandoned as an infant at a railway station in Bihar. But her adoptive father is proud of her. Although poverty stricken himself he encourages both her own schooling and teaching and has made it clear that he won’t be pushing his daughter into early marriage which is otherwise the norm in Bihar.
Living in the poorest state in India and in a land ruthlessly ravaged by Maoists, the little hero is aware of the dangers threatening to disrupt her noble cause. But she has decided that she will be dedicating her life to teaching. With education as her passion and knowledge as her weapon, she is surging ahead to make her homeland a better place to live.
I want to intensely avoid clichéd conclusions, but what these two teenagers have accomplished transcends the meaning of the word achievement. I read somewhere that the true worth of a person is measure by how many lives he or she has managed to touch positively. According to that Bharti and Babar Ali are priceless treasure of humanity. I hope reading this story grants the readers even a little bit of the indomitable sense of purpose that these two heroes have inspired. Start your own story now.