For children from low-income families, education in itself is often a luxury, let alone studying at coaching institutes for competitive exams. Many students with high intellectual potential are unable to take utmost benefit of their calibre as they are unable to afford the fees of the education institutes which gives them an immediate disadvantage against the students who are able to afford such trainings. This is a matter of concern because it not only violates the right of equality in opportunity of these individuals, but also hampers the country from accumulating its demographic dividend.
In a bid to help students from low-income families while contributing to the environment, a coaching institute in Bihar asks such students to plant 18 saplings as admission fees in exchange for free education. The coaching institute’s green initiative has not only benefited more than 5,000 students from poor families but has also improved the green cover in the region.
The Green Pathshala
The institute called as ‘Green Pathshala’ was founded in Samastipur district of Bihar in 2008 and has helped plant 110,000 saplings since then. The saplings, mostly fruit-bearing species, were planted in districts of north Bihar such as Samastipur, Begusarai, Darbhanaga and Khagaria.
Rajesh Kumar Suman, a climate activist and the brain behind the Green Pathshala, has remarked that a person inhales as much oxygen throughout their life as these 18 plants generate. Thus in order to work towards conserving the environment and recognising it to be a collective responsibility of the community, he implemented this idea.
The idea has proved to be a boon for poor students who can’t afford to join prominent coaching classes in Patna and other cities. Around 500 students enrolled in the institute have cleared the competitive examination and got government jobs.
Student Testimonials of Green Pathshala
A student of the institute, Raushan Kumar has said, “The plants have helped me get a job in the Income Tax Department in Mumbai. Had it not been for this institute, I would have been selling spices on the roadside for survival like my father.”
Another student Amarjeet Das feeling indebted to the institute said, “I was told to send selfies with saplings I have planted. I was considered for admission when I reached 18 plants.” Das is now a Group D employee with the Indian Railways. His father is a daily-wage labourer.
Students are asked to plant saplings anywhere in the region — either on their own farmlands or on government land if they are landless. The teachers at the institute are employed elsewhere and provide their service for free to help the poor. They conduct classes in the morning and the evening for two hours each.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic crisis for several low-income families across the country. For the families that have been struggling to put three meals a day on a daily basis, spending money to send their children to coaching institutes to prepare for competitive exams has felt like a luxury they cannot afford. Initiatives such as Green Pathshala can provide a major respite to these students while improving the green cover in the country.