Harekala Hajabba, an orange vendor from Karnataka’s Mangaluru, on Monday received Padma Shri Award from President Ram Nath Kovind in Padma Awards ceremony held in Delhi. The 66-year-old man was conferred with the India’s second-highest civilian award for his efforts in providing education to children of his village.
Hajabba, who hails from a village of Newpadapu near Mangalore, has no formal education yet has been successful in establishing a school for the children of his village.
Hajabba said it was an encounter with two foreign tourists once that initially led him in take up the initiative of opening a new school. Speaking to ANI, he said, “As I could not communicate with the foreigner, I felt bad and decided to build a school in the village. I only know Kannada, not English or Hindi. So I was depressed as I could not help the foreigner. I wondered about constructing a school in my village.”
According to BBC, Hajabba’s village did not have a school until 2000, when he had saved enough money from his meager earnings to set one up by himself. As the number of students grew, he even took out loans and used his savings to buy land for the school.
With an income of just Rs 150 per day, Hajabba received very little support from locals and authorities, but his determination saw him open a primary school with 28 students in a madrassa – a Muslim educational institution generally connected to a mosque.
As the number of students increased over the years, Hajaba had to apply for loans, mop the school premises an even boil water for the children and undertake various other activities all by himself.
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