Kunal Mahurkar, Janhavi Kale
October 2019, mere 3 kilometers of distance looked like a huge barrier for children in Sonkhamb, no one from the community was going to the school. Children didn’t find themselves fit in there. We wondered, “Would our children ever manage to break through this and start going to the school?”
To our pleasant surprise, it is August 2022, and almost all of our children are comfortably integrated with Zilla Parishad school. The bigger surprise, Kishor Jograna, 12, has started going to a school at Taluka place, 12 kilometers away. Today, as we were discussing what to do about Kishor’s challenges of reaching school on time, he told us, “Bhaiya maine hostel ka form bhar diya hai. Main Katol mein hi rahunga. (Bhaiya, I have filled the form for hostel, I will stay in Katol itself).” The potential of children to transform themselves surprises us every now and then.
Due to the rainy season and the distance, it had been challenging for Kishor to reach school on time. His new teacher, Mr. Kavadkar was worried about Kishor coming late or being absent in the class. He called me (Kunal) and shared, “I talked about this with Kishor a couple of times. He looked down and listened but didn’t say anything. I want to come and see the situation for myself. I would also get to visit your community centre.”
Then suddenly, the next day, he called and said that he was coming to our place. Also, it was Kishor’s birthday. We informed the community that Kishor’s teacher from Katol would be paying a visit. So the women prepared for his welcome.
Mr. Kavadkar brought a cake for Kishor. All women welcome him at the community centre. Later he narrated Kishor’s 2-month journey and experience at the school. He also spoke with other children at the hamlet and asked them some questions. Just then Ratan Didi and Jallu Dadi said, “We will send our kids too to your school next year.”
Later we talked with Kishor’s mother about the problem of him not reaching school on time and what we can do about it. Kishor’s mother couldn’t reply to that, but suddenly Kishor himself said, “Bhaiya maine hostel ka form bhar diya hai. Main Katol mein hi rahunga. (Bhaiya, I have filled the form for hostel, I will stay in Katol itself).” He said, he will stay in Katol, start tuitions for two subjects at Mr. Kavadkar’s place and he will practice Kabaddi and Volleyball in the evening. Both me and his teacher were delighted to hear that and his teacher said, “I will give you some money to buy you a bicycle and I won’t charge you for the tuition.”
The next day, we got a call that Kishor’s application for hostel was approved. Kishor immediately started the preparation to shift to the hostel. He asked us to get him to the hostel the next day. We went, along with another boy from the community, Mehul. Kishor was welcomed at the hostel by his friends and the warden. Kishor asked Mehul, “Will you also come to the hostel with me?” Mehul replied, “Yes, both me and Vikram will join you next year.” The hostel is approximately 3 kilometers away from the school and Kishor doesn’t have a bicycle. So, right now he is taking a lift from his friends. He shared that he likes it at the hostel. As Kishor and most of our children at Sonkhamb continue pushing their limits, there is no looking back.