By Pam Prather
When I think about the story of Manjula, a teacher at the Anjanavidya Kendra (Anjana) School in rural India, I am reminded of a picture that one of our Board of Directors, Ketan Soni, sent me when he visited Berlin, Germany. The picture was of a piece of the Berlin Wall, and on the wall it said, “many small people who in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world.”
Like many others in rural India, Manjula’s parents were daily wage earners. Manjula and her brother were students at a private school, near an urban low-income group settlement in Bangalore, India.
When Brahmi, a non-governmental organization in India and our partner, started its first project in the slums of Jagadishnagar, Manjula and her brother, Shiva, had become dropouts. Their mother was seriously ill with an unknown disease and their father had deserted the family. Brahmi staff found the family living under a tree after they were thrown out of their slum dwelling. The family was unable to pay rent because there was absolutely no source of income, and the mother was being nursed by her two small children.
Brahmi took up the task of educating Manjula and Shiva. Manjula was a student of our first program, Akshara, a home school. The family was provided with accommodations in a nearby village, and Manjula was sent to a Boarding School in Bangalore run by Seva Sadan. Shiva was sent to Abhayadham, a vocational training school.
In 2002, the children’s mother was completely bedridden, and believed she would die any day. Dr. Amarnarayan, a medical officer at National Aerospace Laboratories and a member of Brahmi’s Board, diagnosed her with acute hypothyroidism. After two years of treatment she was able to walk again, and even carry out daily chores. Brahmi supported her during these years, and later her husband rejoined the family.
In the meantime, Manjula completed high school, as well as pre-university education. She rejoined her family in the village. In 2010, Manjula was hired by Anjana School as a Trainee Teacher and now earns a salary higher than her father. She’s considered an excellent teacher, and participates in all the activities she herself was a part of all those years. While she has been presented with other opportunities, Manjula plans to complete her training and become a part of the full-time faculty at the Anjana School.
There were many people involved in helping Manjula along the way. Now she can give back to her community, and help the Anjana School continue to provide education to rural children in India who would otherwise lack access to it.