Raj Karan Yadav
Raj Karan Yadav is the owner and manager of a private school in the village of Richhaura (part of the Jamo block and Amethi district of the state of Uttar Pradesh), the same village in which he was raised. Currently 36 years old, he’s the youngest of the four children born to his parents. His father died when he was very young and in the absence of support from other family members, his mother raised him and his siblings in extreme poverty. In 2003 he himself became a widower with two small boys, who are now in their teens. Both study at the school he founded.
Raj Karan founded Shri Ramesh Yadav Smarak Shikshan Sansthan (translated Mr. Ramesh Yadav Memorial Educational Institute) in 2001 in memory of his father, whom he never knew. One by one, he built each of the eight brick-walled classrooms, covering some with tin roofs and others with thatch. The spacious central courtyard is planted with shade trees under which students can study. The school is built on land owned by the village.
The school currently serves over 200 students from grades 1-12 and employs 11 teachers. Students typically attend school six days per week, from 9 AM to 4 PM. All subjects are taught in grades 1-10, but for grades 11 and 12 students may opt to pursue a science or arts track. Raj Karan himself is not a teacher, but rather takes care of all other needs at the school, including administration, bookkeeping, janitorial, and gardening.
All of the school’s operations are funded by tuition alone. There is no outside funding. The cost to attend is 50-300 rupees (US $0.75 to $4.50) per month per student, depending on grade level. He offers free education to children who have lost their fathers.
Raj Karan is candid that none of his graduates have done spectacularly well. Most choose regular employment options. But still, he believes that education is a fundamental right for human progress. He says he doesn’t believe in dreaming big, but rather does whatever he can at each step. However, in the future he wants to build and run a local degree college so that students aren’t forced to travel far from home for further studies.
Although the school has regular access to electricity, it is intermittent and insufficient for meeting all of the school’s needs. Prior to being connected to the utility grid, Raj Karan would charge an inverter at home and bring it to school to run computers for the classes. The school has been offering computer education for the past 5-6 years, and students take one 40-minute computer class each day.
As part of the Hans Free Electric™ pilot project, Raj Karan received a bike, along with a computer monitor and a USB drive containing educational resources. Although the bike didn’t supply enough electricity to power the computers, having the monitor has been helpful to students in lower grades. Additionally, the bike has been used to supply lighting during evening hours when some of the students come to the school to study on their own. He himself pedals the bike, though sometimes the students pedal as well. He says the pedaling activity has cured his chronic knee pain.