In the tribal-dominated region of Udaipur, Rajasthan, a school was established in Peepliya village two decades ago, providing education up to the fifth grade. It wasn't until 2022 that a permanent teacher was finally appointed to the school. However, upon the teacher's arrival, it was discovered that the road connecting the village to the school was far from adequate. This 6-km stretch of road was riddled with bumps and uneven terrain, making even walking a challenging task. In light of these challenging conditions, the teacher made the decision to pursue a transfer. As the villagers became aware of the teacher's predicament due to the impassable 6-km road, they approached him with a promise on Independence Day, 15 August. They pledged to have the road leveled within three months so that he could commute to school on his bike. Remarkably, the villagers fulfilled their commitment, ensuring better access to education for the children in Peepliya village.
In Peepliya village, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Khoona Gram Panchayat in Kotra Tehsil, Udaipur district, the situation was quite challenging. Located more than 150 km away from the district headquarters, this remote village had its fair share of obstacles. In 2002, the government initiated a primary school in the area, offering education up to the fifth grade. However, the school's operation was inconsistent, with teachers intermittently attending, leaving the children's education in a state of flux. Often, only a handful of students, around 4 to 5, would show up for class. To address this issue, the government employed a contract teacher known as a Shiksha Mitra.
Teacher Samarth Meena
In June 2022, Samarth Meena, a Grade Three teacher, received his very first posting. Samarth hailed from Arnod in Pratapgarh district and was excited about this new opportunity. However, little did he know that his assignment would involve crossing the Sei River to reach Peeliya village. Upon reaching the Sei River, Samarth was confronted with knee-deep water, which was quite challenging to traverse. Upon finally reaching the village, he discovered that even reaching the school required navigating a rugged and bumpy 6-km road. Despite these hardships, he persevered and spent a year teaching there. Samarth admitted that he was disheartened by the situation, and by 2023, he had already begun efforts to secure a transfer to another location due to the challenging commute. In June 2023, the villagers learned of Samarth's impending transfer, which prompted them to request him to reconsider. They were well aware of the difficulties he faced, particularly regarding the road conditions. Consequently, on June 24, 2023, a village meeting was convened, and Samarth was in attendance to discuss his future at Peepliya village.
The village people built the road in 50 days
The village residents rallied together to fulfill their commitment to the children and their teacher. To achieve this, they assembled a team of 35 individuals, each assigned specific tasks. Their first undertaking involved the removal of massive stones and piles of soil from the roads connecting the village to the school. Every morning, the villagers would emerge from their homes armed with shovels, pickaxes, hammers, and various tools, dedicating 8 hours of labor to level the rugged road after clearing away the significant stones. This effort persisted for approximately 50 days. Subsequently, they fashioned a makeshift road by compacting the terrain with mud and pebbles. On August 14, upon Samrath's return to the village, the villagers guided him to the path that both the children and the teacher had to traverse for the 6-kilometer journey. Ultimately, the villagers upheld their promise, and the following day, Samarth was able to reach the school on his bicycle, thanks to their collective effort.
A Dedicated Teacher
In the village, there existed a Government Higher Primary School, but the local residents displayed limited interest in education. The prevailing sentiment among the villagers was that the school lacked resources and facilities suitable for their children's needs. However, upon Samarth's arrival, he embarked on a mission to change this perception. He actively engaged with the villagers, going door-to-door to persuade them to send their children to school. Recognizing that his efforts alone might not suffice to boost enrollment, Samarth initiated a survey independently. At the outset, there were approximately 32 children attending the school. Undeterred, he extended his outreach to other children in the village, promoting the value of education. As a result, within a year, the number of children attending the school increased substantially to a total of 70.
Samarth, holding a Master's degree in History, expressed his utmost satisfaction regarding the positive changes he brought to the school. Previously, many children were not enrolled, and even those who were enrolled tended to discontinue their education after completing the fifth grade. However, Samarth was determined to alter this pattern. He took a proactive step by personally counseling nine fifth-grade students, emphasizing the importance of continuing their education. Encouraged by his guidance, these students progressed to the sixth grade. Despite the senior school being situated seven kilometers away from the village, Samarth's unwavering efforts facilitated their admission into the senior school. Today, these children are pursuing their education there, thanks to Samarth's dedication and support.
The formidable presence of towering mountains and an arduous, rocky road deterred prospective teachers from accepting positions at this school. In fact, the villagers believed that any teacher offered a permanent appointment at this location would likely decline. The primary concern stemmed from the fact that during the rainy season, the road connecting the village to the school would become impassable, rendering it inaccessible by bike. Even after reaching the village, both students and teachers were compelled to continue on foot. Notably, to reach this village, one had to cross the Sei river twice, further complicating the journey.
Samarth highlights a significant challenge faced by the village: the absence of both mobile and landline networks. In this remote location, maintaining school attendance and other essential records necessitated a journey to a distant hilltop where network connectivity was available for sending information. For personal communication, Samarth had to wait until he returned home after school, where he could finally engage in conversations. The lack of internet connectivity in the village also posed difficulties when considering the possibility of conducting online activities for the children, making it an unattainable option.