Ramgarh (Jharkhand): It's a boarding school in Jharkhand where almost every child dreams of becoming a doctor, teacher or engineer. Yet it is no ordinary place - every student, teacher and staff member there is a disabled person.
The Rajrappa Handicapped School in Sukrigada village of Ramgarh district, with its 150 students in Classes 1 to 10, has become a source of inspiration to physically and mentally challenged people.
Every morning, the school is abuzz with the chorus of students, some of whom are paralysed in their hands and legs or have lost their limbs in accidents.
Avanti Kumari, a Class 9 student who hails from Ghahari village in Bokaro, has been there for the last eight years. Her parents died when she was just two. At the age of three she was afflicted with polio, but the school has helped keep her spirits intact.
"I want to become a teacher to serve handicapped people back in my village," she told sources.
Arvind Kumar Mahto, a resident of Salvanda village in Ranchi, also studies there. A mentally challenged boy, his parents virtually dumped him at the school three years ago. And now he doesn't want to go back.
"I don't want to go to my parents' house. I am fine here. I want to help deprived people," said Arvind.
Like Arvind and Avanti Kumari, most students at the schools want to become teachers, engineers, doctors and want to serve people in the state.
All the staff members are physically challenged. But that doesn't stop them from doing anything. Buying cereals and vegetables, cooking the food and everything else required to keep the school running is done by the disabled themselves.
The school management charges no fees, and the food and lodging are free.
The Rajrappa school, located 50 km from state capital Ranchi, was started way back in 1997 by a group of four disabled people with just eight students. Students from Bokaro, Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Jamshedpur and other districts come to study there.
It is the brainchild of Bhuneshwar Mahto and Deodhar Karmali. Mahto was working with a private security firm in Ranchi. In 1983 when he was travelling in an auto-rickshaw, it collided with an ambulance. In the accident his right leg was badly damaged. Doctors had to amputate it to save his life and Mahto was bedridden for three months.
"Life had become difficult for me. I could feel the burden on my family members. I had to depend on others for everything and used to be depressed," said Mahto.
But things changed when he met another disabled person, Deodhar Karmali, who too had lost his legs in an accident.
In 1987, they approached government officials for handicapped certificates that are helpful in getting admission in schools, colleges, hospitals and for jobs. But the officials said no handicapped person lives in the area.
Karmali and Mahto started surveying the disabled in the area. Around 30 handicapped people were brought under one banner and then they met government officials. After struggling for two years, the government officials issued handicapped certificates in 1989 to several of them. But even then no government support reached them.
In 1996, Govind Prasad Verma, a vetenary doctor, donated land in Sukrigada village, which was then part of Hazaribagh district. Now the village is part of Ramgarh district.
The same year, the school was started there with one room and eight disabled students. Now the school has 16 rooms and 10 teachers. There are 13 staff members, including 10 teachers.
The school provides clothes, books and other things to students and it manages everything on the money donated by individuals and NGOs. In the last 11 years, the Jharkhand government has given Rs.240,000 in assistance to the school.
"Someone has to take the lead to fight for handicapped people. We cannot depend on the government for education and jobs," said Karmali, president of the school.
"Our effort is to produce good human beings at our school. Only a good human being can serve society and the country. We are also trying to make our students capable of rubbing shoulders with general students."
IANS Sep 03, 2008