Bharathi Mahapatra: An idealist instructor (Head Mistress)
At a small hamlet in Puri, where families are generally economically disadvantaged, Vijayanagar Project Primary School stands as a symbol of hope to children in the area. It serves as safe haven where they receive both their basic rights of food and education. And we get the opportunity to visit the school and share a dialogue with the headmistress. Her name is Bharathi Mahapatra, a lady of warm demeanour and compassion. She is in this profession for 21 years and running the school since the last two years.
Bharathi cordially welcomes us in her office which has books and notes stacked up in corners; the wall facing us has a menu chart of the mid-day meals served to the school children. As we take our seats she initiates the conversation saying, "This school was built in 2009." Further ahead we learn that the school is open to students from standard I to V. And it has about 113 children receiving food and education every day. Besides the regular study sessions performing arts, writing and reading skills are also encouraged in the school. Whilst we try to digest the information, she adds, "Students from Anganwadi come to start their education here too."
The school is run with three dedicated teachers and Bharathi herself teaches students from standard III to V due to lack of staff. Despite the odds, she loves the experience which we are assured as she says, "I like the challenge of serving in this school as the community is economically disadvantaged." We get more inspired when we find out that she took the transfer to be posted in that area voluntarily so she could work at the school.
Bharathi keeps the interaction rolling as we get absorbed in her disclosures. With an empathetic tone she says, "In this area due to financial constraints children are driven to labour due to the lack of proper care and support." She is grateful that the mid-day meal programme by Akshaya Patra came as an incentive to education which actually offers two of the fundamental rights of food and education to the children. "And the children get to live their childhood as they are supposed to", she interjects.
After this hearty conversation we take our leave with a sense of security and gratitude that there are people like Bharathi, whose resolve to serve children with education is unshakeable.