Empowering Women

Transforming Lives of Girls through Education


Jharkhand’s Rajiv Shukla has taken it upon himself to empower the girls of Dhodhakola village near Jhumri Telaiya in Koderma district, through education.

In Dhodhakola village in Koderma district, a major chunk of the population lies below the poverty line. It is a fight for them every day to fulfill the basic need of food. This is why they resort to mining, so much so that even children as young as six, accompany their parents to the mines for mica digging.

Dhodhakala village is 27 kilometres away from Jhumri Telaiya town and 17 kms from Koderma district headquarter. The regions, encircled by dense forests, are famous for mica and stone mining. While restrictions have been imposed by the government on mining activities, the villagers continue to dig to make their ends meet.

It is unfortunate that despite being a mineral and forest rich state, the poverty levels in Jharkhand remain high.

13 years back, the children here could be seen toiling in the mines – picking and digging mica. The region was far from development. Social, economic and educational backwardness was the only reality. Things have started changing in the region due to initiatives and efforts of people like Rajiv Ranjan Shukla, the founder of Manav Vikas Dhara, an organization that aims to raise awareness about the importance of education.

A Region Far from Education

In Rajiv’s words, “When I visited this place, 13 years ago for the first time, I saw that this sleepy little town nestled amidst thick forests and jungles was far from development of any kind. Education was the last thing on the minds of the people here.”

“I, along with my team conducted a survey in 2010 to analyse the level of education and found that it was extremely low and worrisome. The dialects, pronunciations, language, writing – everything had to be worked upon from scratch.

“After much research and analysis, we chalked out our plans and established an informal education centre under the banner of Imperial Academy as a project-based program which was to conduct regular classes from Monday to Saturday. But the greatest challenge was to find ways to encourage children to attend these classes and remain regular with them.”

“There were days when no one turned in. But with passage of time, more children started coming, some would attend sporadically. Slowly, their seriousness and their hunger for learning increased. They started becoming more regular, especially girls. The results are now visible.”

“I was greatly touched by the plight of the girl child in these villages. They were never encouraged to go to school. They had to assist in household chores, animal rearing and grazing and even in the mines.”

Government Middle Schools were operational in the region but several challenges came in the way of girls in their education.

  • Travelling to school daily, covering a distance of no less than 10-15 kilometres
  • Commutation problems with long waiting time for transport
  • Safety and security due to the presence of local goons and mining mafias

The schools had their separate set of shortcomings.

  • Due to highly forested areas and fear of criminals, schools lacked a good number of teachers. There were just 2 teachers for 300 students. With this skewed ratio, how can the children have access to education?
  • Secondly, most schools ran on the mercy of para teachers who had limited education and teaching skills. How could the quality of education possibly increase in such a scenario?

How Education Changed the Villages

“Education has not been easy in this area. There’s so much poverty that people have only one thought in their mind – earn for food. They fail to recognize the benefits of education and how it can slowly lead to development.”

“We knew what lay ahead was a difficult task, but we were determined. In our Imperial Academy, we used to charge only Rs 100 as fees per month. Some were not able to pay this amount too. But no one was stopped from coming to school. In 2015, the Academy completed 5 years and thereafter the community youth has been running Saraswati Shishu Vidhyalaya in its place. We also introduced English learning and spoken English into the curriculum. And, today when these children speak in English, it fills our heart with pride.”

In recent years, there has been substantial success in the number of girls who have completed their matriculation and graduation. In a place where education was limited till grade III, it is a big thing if the girls in this region can complete their school education and aspire for further studies.

Shipra, one of the students of Imperial academy, has passed her Law examination and is all set to start her career as a lawyer. She dreams of becoming a judge someday.

Mining: A Distraction or a Need

For a region where poverty is high and opportunities to sustain livelihood are limited, mining gives the people the money needed to buy food.

But with the impositions of restrictions on mining activities, unemployment and poverty have only increased. Moreover, the mining sector remains largely dominated by mafia and local criminals. Farming is also not a viable option, owing to the ownership and quality of land and due to lack of resources.

Therefore, the villagers are left with no option but to turn to illegal mining activities.

In the past few years, child labour, which was prevalent in these mines, has gone down substantially because people are widely recognizing the need for educating their children and sending them to school.

While the government is also trying to implement livelihood schemes for the betterment of the people here, there is still a long way to go.
10 years ago, Rajiv had started this initiative in Dhodhakola village and change has come in the form of more children wanting to learn and grow. Education is slowly changing the panorama of the region.

Even the families are now keen to send their kids to school, for them to have a better future.

The Model of ‘Transferring of Responsibility’

When we asked Rajiv to shed some light on his approach and techniques, he said that they now follow a simple principle of transfer of responsibility, wherein the educated people of the community, majorly the youth, are engaged, to impart their learning and skills to equip other members of the community, especially the children.

The community youth like Shipra and others who have successfully completed their studies have taken the responsibility to help as many children as possible at minimal fees. They have started a new primary school for children and are running it successfully with infrastructural backup from Rajiv and his team.

Additionally, Manav Vikas Dhara has been continuing the two days classes, focusing on competitive exams and on subjects like GK, English, Math, and Reasoning.

A Better Future

As education is increasing, opportunities are also opening. Earlier while people from outside were employed in the Anganwadis, today, the village people with basic education are engaged as Anganwadi helpers or para teachers.

This is a story of change in some of the most poverty-stricken villages of the country and education is the tool responsible for bringing out the change with efforts of people like Rajiv Shukla – the man who set out to conquer multiple challenges and gave the local community a direction to pursue education.


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