Pooja Mishra, the eldest amongst her 3 sisters, always had her roots deeply embedded in the village of Purasi near Raebareli. But, her parents chose to educate her in Lucknow as there was no place for quality education in Purasi. She completed her schooling from a school affiliated to an International Board, pursued Engineering as her Bachelors education and then went on to work in the United States with Infosys for almost 6 years. But, the memories of Purasi never left her. While in the US, Pooja realized that the perspective of people back in India was completely different than the one which she carried and it was mainly due to the lack of exposure, unchallenged illogical social norms and the quality of education that seldom entertained a broader, progressive viewpoint. This often left thousands behind in climbing the social ladder.
Pooja came back to India and to broaden her paraphernalia of experiences, eventually pursued an MBA from IIM Calcutta. But, the vacuum of restlessness still persisted. Due to the kind of exposure Pooja had acquired, she was well-versed of how life could be better in several aspects simply by making different choices – The most important of them being education. So, instead to jumping in the corporate rubble, Pooja decided to go back to her village and start a school for the underprivileged children there. Gurukul Public School initially sailed with 28 children aboard.
“I initially charged a meagre amount of Rs. 50-60 per month for a child. But, I soon found out that even such a small amount was extremely difficult for the parents to pay.”, said Pooja. But, the lack of money left her in a difficult position to meet the expenses of running the school which defeated the purpose of her coming back to India to an extent. Although, she started pooling in her personal savings, but even then a stage came when she decided to close the school. However, she found out that the children held high expectations from the school which made her give up the idea of quitting. It was at this time when her batch-mates from IIM C stepped forward and supported the cause and Pooja managed to raise funds for 160 students and the ball kept rolling thereafter.
Currently, Gurukul imparts education to 874 students and makes continuous efforts to find donors for the children who are left unfunded. The children who seek admission here are mostly from the local government Schools who enjoy all the privileges of a private school at Gurukul. Besides having qualified teachers to train these children, the school also has a fully equipped library, a multi-media centre, science-lab and much more. During the conversation with TOC, Pooja threw some light on the difficulties she faced through her journey. She said that, “The mindset of the people in the village is totally different. Education is a long-term process and to see any substantial result the student who is enrolled in nursery has to at least clear out 10th or 12th grade. But the needs of the people here are so basic that they have to think about the next meal or next day’s wages, which makes it impossible for them to be patient for a longer time.” Furthermore, the school has to struggle and cope up with the caste-issues, gender-bias problems, absenteeism, parents not shouldering the responsibility to send their child to the school and many such lagging thought-processes prevalent in the village while maintaining the culture of the school.
Also, it took some time for the people to build up the trust that was missing initially. But, things are starting to see a brighter light of the day. “People have now witnessed the difference in the behaviour in their children who study at our school to others in their vicinity. That’s how things are gradually falling in place and we are motivated to make new strides.” proudly mentions Pooja.
Gurukul Public School extends education till class 8th and has applied for propoagting higher level of education to CBSE. . “My aim is to establish a culture where there is no need for a Gurukul and come up with a society where everyone can afford to go to school. Education should not be forceful; rather it should by choice. The idea is to expand this notion to the other areas of the country and make this concept more sustainable.” said Pooja culminating her experiences in spreading the message of the power of the written word.
You can contribute for the cause for Gurukul Public School by getting in touch with Pooja Mishra at: Mobile: +91 8174816464 & Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nazneen Kachwala | TOC
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