Let Them Illuminate the Earth.
Breswana village, an average, remote, inaccessible village in the mountains of Doda in Jammu and Kashmir, was an area where the concept of education was almost unknown for over 30 years. Yes you might have come across the name of the village quite a number of times, why not? Breswana village of Doda – a district 160 km northeast of Jammu was once a hub of militancy. Here almost every household was hit by militancy till 2004.
Walk with us today to an altitude above 7,100 feet, about 200-odd kms from Jammu through a rocky, harsh terrain with steep slopes, not to mention the adverse weather for most time of the year to a Road to Change.
In 2008, Sabbah Haji sat at her desk based out of Bangalore, and watched in harrowing news reels her small town in the Doda district as the Amarnath struggle of Jammu & Kashmir unfold. It was when Sabbah decided to move to Breswana and join her parents to change people’s lives there and grab positive news headlines for her ancestral home. And what better way to change people’s lives than to educate them?
“And just like that, out of nowhere, we started talking about it,” says Sabaah Haji, Director of Haji Public School, speaking to India Today.
Rekindling hopes for education in the Doda district which went without any education to feed the knowledge-hungry for 3 decades. Education will help break the vicious cycles of violence, terrorism that citizens find impossible to come out of.
Here’s how pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit
The village overlooking the Chenab River needed to see a drastic change that would uplift it. Nasir Haji, Sabbah Haji’s uncle who is a Singapore-based Indian businessman almost impulsively decided on starting the Haji Public School to change people’s lives there by educating them. The government schools did not function and there were almost no private schools there.
“Uncle Nasir suggested we start a school there,” says Sabbah.
The mountain-cut village school was established and is managed by Nasir’s brother Saleem Haji and his daughter Sabbah Haji. Her mother Tasneem Haji, an educationist, too is part of the school set up. For a School that has just one objective – to impart knowledge to those children who cannot avail of the academic facilities, a strong foundation for classrooms was needed. What better way than all the village inhabitants coming together and laying the foundation of the school brick by brick?
The Haji Public School started on 4th May 2009, at the ground level, teaching only the lower and upper kindergarten students.
A master plan to get children back
From parents lined up around windows to poke their heads into classrooms as a curiosity to parents not willing to give up on a good education for their children so that they get an opportunity to make it on their own when they grow up, Haji Public School is making a redeeming difference. When it started, the school had student strength of 30 with two grades. As of today, the student strength has risen to 400 plus studying in classes up to eighth grades from 15 villages, who walk hours across mountains every day to attend school. Last year, Haji Public School’s first batch, who had joined in KG in 2009, cleared their Class 8 Board exams with flying colors. This year the second kindergarten batch is through.
“We have had families move from cities to the village for the school, because we provide good quality education. All of this is because we have kept it simple. Minimal fee structure, very competent teachers, good infrastructure and teaching aids and fun learning,” says Sabaah to India Today.
Talking about the positive change the school has brought about in his children, Abdul Latief Ahanger (father of two children studying in grade six and grade seven of HPS) says: “I always see them obsessed with books. Also, they were very shy in initial days but now, their level of confidence has increased manifold.”
It takes a big heart to shape a little mind! – That’s for our Volunteer teachers redefining education
Who would mind to spend some quality time with our good old Himalayan Mountains, you wonder! Well, many would especially because the district 160 km northeast of Jammu on the lap of our old friend was once a hub of militancy.
“I feel people are too scared to come here and there is a necessity to teach the students here more than any other normal city in India,” says Karishma, a volunteer teacher.
While there’s no doubt your experience in Breswana will be worthwhile, Sabaah warns that the volunteer programme is not a “chill volun-tourism gig” and we can’t agree more. After all, a good teacher makes a good student and that is exactly what HPS is trying to make, bright kids for a brighter tomorrow.
As a volunteer teacher at Haji Public School, you’ll be offered free boarding and lodging in return for your time at the school. Teaching roles at such remote, almost inaccessible places come with extra responsibilities and dedication. To be a volunteer at Haji Public School, you need to be very serious, hard-working, patient and a sincere worker as the hopes of many parents lie on their shoulders so that after completing their education they can work for betterment of their village and make it a better heaven.
Karishma Prakash, 25, quit her engineering job in Bengaluru and Sanu Khan, 30, took a sabbatical from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Thiruvananthapuram. Both volunteer as teachers at the Haji Public School in Breswana village of Doda.
“Coming here has been an eye-opening experience. The children despite the different kind of hardship they face are tremendously bright,” says Dhamini Ratnam, 33, who quit her journalism job in Mumbai to teach class 7 students here.
Thanks to the efforts of these volunteers and many more who are trying to make it better with every single passing day whose constant efforts to make something out of these children is already bearing fruits.
Besides the many deodar and pine trees around the enthusiastic children are waiting for you. Go and share as much knowledge as you have acquired and let the nature be your teacher instead, that’s the best part of imparting knowledge!
You can check out the complete details of their Volunteer Programme here. Click here to see how you can help Haji Public School.
Luckily, google up Breswana on the net now and you’ll find a lot of links that talk only about Haji Public School and Sabbah Haji. This amazing journey of changing the narrative of a strife-ridden place to a success story is all due to Sabbah and her amazing team that works day in and out for the betterment of the place.
New Age Kashmir salutes their will-power and will be back soon with more such stories that’ll help you find positive stories in a world full of negative headlines.
Sabbah Haji can be followed on Twitter: @imsabbah
The school website: http://www.hajipublicschool.org/