When he wasn’t even ten, Kumar expressed his desperation for education by slashing his wrist and demanding admission into a school.
Mithun Kumar had understood the value of education at a very young age. Born in an underprivileged family as the youngest of five siblings, Kumar did not have access to education like his peers. His father was a rickshaw puller and his mother worked as domestic help to sustain a family. With limited means, Kumar’s parents could not afford to raise a family or send their children to school, therefore, the children worked and contributed their earning towards the sustenance of the family. When he wasn’t even ten, Kumar expressed his desperation for education by slashing his wrist and demanding admission into a school.
Today, Kumar holds free classes for children at his school – children who cannot afford education otherwise. The name of his school, MReal (Methodologies for Rural Education) is based in Nangli, a village in Punjab, with two locations that attract children, mostly of migrant labourers, from nearby villages. “I noticed that there were quite many children in Nangli who could not afford education,” Kumar says. He started holding classes for these children at a plot that has now expanded to a two storey structure holding 180 students at two locations. Initially, Kumar ventured on this journey on his own, but he now has a couple of teachers, who are also his former students, as his aides in this social cause.
In order to operate the schools and pay his teachers on time, Kumar works during the day and donates all his income towards the functioning of his schools. He maintains a focus on English language skills so that the students feel confident pursuing higher education after primary school. Kumar mentions that he is in talks with some schools that can possibly take in his students after Grade 5 on a nominal fee, which will be paid by Kumar.
This young and tireless individual is not just educating children but is in fact fighting with taboos and stereotypes as well. His village, Nangli, like many other villages in India, lacks infrastructure for electricity and water supply, and has become a convenient dumping spot for factories nearby. As a result, children and adults within the region face multiple health risks. Girls, for example, face gynaecological issues due to lack of proper sanitation facilities. Kumar is fighting these issues by addressing them and not bypassing them. He lobbies with private schools for old textbooks, and with pharmaceutical students for sanitary pads for girls so they do not have to miss school.
The tireless work of Kumar has definitely been recognized at various levels in Punjab. On January 26, 2013, former Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, recognized Kumar’s work by awarding him the Youth Award for his work in the field of education and social work. Amongst other awards, Kumar has also received the Vivekananda Award in the field of Education in 2013.
Currently, Kumar is looking to expand his school so that he can accommodate more students, facilities and resources. This includes teachers because currently his teachers are former students of MReal. With his hard work and passion towards education, we are confident that Kumar will make a positive difference in the world. He has inspired individuals not only in and around his village but the entire nation. Kumar’s story of courage and action has been extensively talked about in media and is definitely making an impact.
Photos: Mithun Kumar/Facebook