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Feb 15, 2013 at 09:31am IST

Odisha: Tea-stall owner provides free education to slum children

Cuttack: A tea-stall owner in Cuttack doubles up as a teacher to provide free education to slum children. Every morning, the tea-stall owner, Prakash Rao, serves free milk to a bunch of kids who gather near his stall. If it weren't for the 55-year-old's initiative, the young ones wouldn't have seen the inside of a classroom.

Rao, who had to quit studies in class eleven in spite of a scholarship, knows the importance of education. And that's why he pushes the slum children hard. "My father and mother both go out to work and had this school not been near our basti, I could not have studied. I enjoy coming and studying here," said Jaya, a student.

There are four government schools in a radius of 2 km from the slum, but most parents who are daily wage-earners have found it difficult to send their children to school. But thanks to Rao's school, 'Asha O Ashwan', which provides free education till Class 3, 60 children from the slum have had the opportunity to study. For those who move on from Class 3, Rao helps to facilitate their transition to government schools. Jaya and her 13-year-old sister have benefitted hugely.

Jaya's mother said, "Earlier the children used to roam around and some of them also used to indulge in crimes. But thanks to the school, all that has changed now. I can now dream of a better future for my two daughters."

With no grant from any agencies, it's not easy to cover monthly expenses which touch Rs 10,000 including salaries to four teachers. Rao foots all the bills from the mere Rs 20,000 profit per month that he earns from his tea stall.

"When I see the students changing and the parents becoming more responsible due to the school, I get immense pleasure. No juvenile law can make these changes. If only we impart moral values in these children things will change," Prakash said.

Prakash Rao also provides health services to the needy and has built a group of 50 volunteers in the city who donate blood at the time of emergency. And in his own way, Rao is helping in a new, resurgent India.

In a complex and confusing environment where many are desperately searching for happiness, people like Prakash Rao have shown time and again that happiness can be realised from simple things in life like the joy of giving and making a positive impact in the lives of others.

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