Friday, October 16

A story of exemplary courage: Meet D. Prakash Rao from Cuttack, Odisha

Prakash Rao in his roadside tea stall
A year ago, when the TV show Satyamev Jayate showcased Magic Bus’ work in moving children from poverty, 57-year-old D.Prakash Rao was one of the millions of viewers.

“This was just the organisation I was looking for,” he said, inspired by our experiential learning approach “I wanted children from my school to have the best education possible."

D. Prakash Rao lives in a slum cluster near Buxibazaar in Cuttack, Odisha. He runs a roadside tea stall here – the only source of income for his family of four.

In spite of his overwhelming responsibilities at home and the tea stall, Prakash finds time for the young school-going children in his locality. Between 9.30 and 10am in the morning, he distributes 50 litres of milk to all the school-going children in his locality. “How can a child learn in empty stomach?”.

Having lived through poverty, Prakash understands the struggle of not having enough to eat, let alone go to school. His father’s untimely death caused him to drop out and take up a job and shoulder the responsibilities of the family. It was this experience that led him to set up a school in his slum 15 years ago.“I want to make sure no child misses out on school just because of poverty,” he says. “In my slum, for instance, I decided that if children can’t make it to school, school must come to them," Prakash has opened a small school in his slum and hired a teacher, the entire cost of which comes out of the earnings from his tea stall. The school holds classes for children from the first till the fifth standard. “Primary education is crucial. It is the foundation for further studies”, says Prakash.
Prakash in his school.

Today, 86 children study in this school.
Their parents are rickshaw pullers and domestic workers, the bottom rung of India’s employment pyramid. “It doesn’t matter where you belong in the economic strata, it is important that a every child gets educated”, he explains.

Every day, during the lunch break, Prakash visits the children in his school. Apart from the school, Prakash is equally involved with the local hospital – he visits the patients every day – sometimes bringing in hot water and milk. He even got a water heater installed in the hospital to help patients have access to hot water within the hospital premises.

Having discovered happiness in helping the poorest of the poor, he started influencing the youth to do the same. Through his constant encouragement, a network of youth is now supporting Prakash’s attempt to bring about quality education and healthcare services in the slum.

Prakash contacted our zonal office in Hyderabad soon after seeing the Satyamev Jayate episode. He was intrigued with the approach and wanted us to help enhance the learning experience in his school as well. Our visit to Prakash Rao’s school left us inspired – his grit had brought about a change in the lives of those children who could have either become a child labourer or a child bride. Our activity-based learning sessions were a huge hit with the children.

Prakash Rao’s is a standing example of what we can achieve through sheer determination. We are proud to be a partner of his initiative, and more so for being able to share his story and message to all our readers.

Thank you, Prakash.