Khushi Kumari's face is shining with 'khushi' (happiness). And why not, she is the 'heroine' of the Sadak par School movement that has been going on for some time in Bhojpur District's Koilvar. When asked what she wants to become, she says, “I want to join the army. But first I have to study. And for that I have to fight also.” Khushi is an Intermediate student. Her sisters Chhoti Kumari and Nikki Kumari study in 8th and 7th Standard respectively, while brother Vishwakarma Kumar is in the 3rd Standard. Her mother and aunt chime in, “She is fighting for everyone including her brother and sisters.”
Khushi is not alone in this fight for education. On returning from her Miyanchak mohalla to Adarsh Colony (where the local CPIML office is located) we meet another Khushi Kumari. Also, Priya, Komal, Ripu, Anshu, Ritu, Babli, Amrita, Arati, Nandini, Meena, Seema,Chhoti, Kajal, Shalu, Anjali, Shobha, Sakshi and Anu, all of whom are leaders in this Sadak par School movement. They have worked together with the school reconstruction committee members Abhishek, Premsagar, Ajay, Sindhu, Santosh, Golu and Vikas to achieve this victory.
CPIML Block Committee member and tireless leader of sand workers Comrade Bhola Yadav says, "About three years ago when the Taramani Bhagwan Sao Higher Secobdary School was being acquired for the Patna-Buxar 4-Lane, CPIML organized a movement to stop this. At that time the administration assured us that the school would be reconstructed on 1.57 acres of flood control land. Three years have passed, the road has been constructed, new bridges have come up, the inauguration is over, leaders have come and made speeches and gone, MPs and Ministers assured us that the school will very soon be reconstructed, but that assurance has proved to be a 'jumla' (gimmick) and so we are forced to come out again on the streets".
He further says, “I have also been a student of this school. Shatrughan Raut, brother-in-law of former Education Minister Ramchandra Purve used to be the Principal then. He was a disciplinarian who loved and championed the cause of education and brought renown to this school. The school was considered the best in the District for studies, sports, NCC, building and infrastructure and cleanliness. I have myself represented the school in the Subroto Cup football tournament. The school auditorium was magnificent, with a seating capacity of 1000-1200. The school also had a huge playground, laboratory, library, and separate common rooms for students and staff. There were 25-30 rooms and 2 huge semul trees. For years, we were the District football champions. Our school was also the site for the NCC District camp. 20-25 students from the school figured in every year's list of students who passed in the First Division. Many awards were also conferred on the Principal.”
Khushi tells us, "When the demolition of the school began I asked our teachers, now where will we study? I also gathered about 50 girls from our mohalla and we all protested. My parents asked me, will you be able to fight such a big battle? When the AISA people arrived here the first question I asked them was, where were you all these days?"
The Sadak Par School (School On The Streets) movement has been going on in Bhojpur for the past several years, initiated by Comrade Manoj Manzil who is now the CPIML MLA from Agiaon. Dalit and working class children depend on Government schools for education. When Government school buildings are repurposed as police camps or otherwise allowed to fall victim to neglect, it is these students who suffer. So the students adopted a new form of protest – they organised and held a model “school” (complete with teachers, class periods separated by ringing bells, school songs, uniforms and so on) on the streets. They demonstrated that the “school” was ready and waiting – and demanded that the district administration provide a building and infrastructure for it. The movement at Koilvar is only the latest in a series of such protest actions. While some achieved a degree of success, district administrators have responded in many instances including at Koilvar, by booking the parents of schoolchildren as well as AISA, RYA and CPIML activists in criminal cases.
The CPIML Block Committee started preparations for the movement at Koilvar from 1st August itself. AISA leader Vishal Kumar tells us, “From 7th August we started organizing meetings for students in the catchment areas of the school. Not just from Koilvar and neighbouring areas, but students from as far as villages in Badhara Block and Bihata Block (Patna District) came to study here. 1800-1900 admissions took place annually. We organized meetings for guardians in Surondha Colony, Adarsh Colony, Ramswarup Tola, Banpar Tola, Miyanchak, Bichli Mohalla and many other Wards and Mohallas in Koilvar. A huge rally was organized on 14th August. The flag was hoisted on 15th August.”
On 17th August a 11-member School Reconstruction Committee was formed headed by AISA leader Vishal Kumar. A separate committee for girls was also formed. CPIML and AISA leaders including Block Secretary Nandji, Conrades Lalan Yadav and Bhola Yadav and Vishal Kumar got down to preparations for the movement. Also working day and night for the success of the movement were CPIML Politburo member Swadesh Bhattacharya, RYA National President and Agiaon MLA Manoj Manzil, CPIML youth leader Raju Yadav, AISA State Secretary Sabir Kumar and RYA leader Shivprakash.
Vishal Kumar tells us, “The school reconstruction committee has also organized meetings for students and guardians in dozens of villages including Old Haripur, New Haripur, Jamalpur, Chainpura, Kesarhian, Mahkampur and Kajichak. From these meetings we came to know that the people give a lot of importance to schools and education, and are worried about their children's future. They also gave us the confidence that Taramani Bhagwan Sao Plus-2 School, Koilvar has built the future of several generations. The people will not let the glorious history of this premier school in the District be erased.”
Block Secretary Nandji tells us, “When it was decided to conduct the school on the 4-Lane itself, we started preparations on a war footing--meetings, funding campaigns, and so many things to be done. We completed the work under the guidance of experienced leaders like Comrade Lalan Yadav and others. For me, this was not a school but an exam!”
The school on the street lasted for 11 days, ending when the demand to reopen school in 12 days and to construct a new school building were accepted.
The local correspondent of a national TV channel says, "I have not seen such a movement in Koilvar ever before. This was unprecedented. I am also very happy at this victory!"
CPIML State Secretary Kunal says, "The Modi-Nitish governments are anti-education. They want to keep students out of schools. We will not allow this to happen.”