PATNA: For the 460 students at a residential school on the outskirts of Patna, the Republic Day celebrations this year came with exhilarating news. The students, who come from Bihar’s dirt-poor Dalit Musahar community, were overjoyed to learn that this unique school’s founder-chairman, Jyotinivas Kumar Sinha, has been conferred with the Padma Shri award.
Shoshit Samadhan Kendra (SSK), the school Sinha founded in 2005, has been providing totally free, English-medium education for the poorest of the poor. As the students kept surrounding him to wish him and his mobile phone went on ringing, the 73-year-old retired IPS officer continued smiling and saying ‘Thank you’.
“I am happy that my work has been recognised. This honour reminds me of the huge work of improving the education system for the needy that lies before us,” said Sinha, a Bihar-cadre IPS officer of the 1967 batch who retired as the special secretary of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in 2005.
Soon after retirement, he sold his flat in Delhi and returned to Patna as he wanted to “make some solid, meaningful contribution” to society. When he started visiting Musahar hamlets around Patna to persuade the impoverished families to send their children to his free school, he was ignored and his friends laughed at him. But now, over a dozen Musahar students from Sinha’s school are pursuing higher education and the community regards him as an angel.
“My parents are very poor and they did not want me to go to school. But Sir’s (Sinha) people managed to persuade them, and so I am now in standard nine,” said Prem Kumar, who hails from Punpun near Patna, in flawless English. “Nowhere else can Musahar children like us get free education in the English medium along with free food and clothes,” said Sachin Kumar, a class-X student from Jehanabad.
Sinha started the school in a rented building in 2007 with financial help from Delhi-based NGO Samadhan, which sponsored a batch of 16 boys. The initiative soon found help from institutional and corporate funders in India and abroad. It moved to its present two-storey building in a two-acre campus at Shivala in 2015.
“He is a tireless man who has vowed to help provide Musahar children a better future,” said his wife Pratibha Sinha, who oversees the school’s academic and administrative functioning.
SSK, which runs classes from nursery to standard XII, plans to raise its annual intake of nursery students from the present 50 to 100 starting next year. Sinha also plans to raise the number of students to 1,000 in the next five years.