Lesson 48: The Loneliest Schoolkid in India

Yuvraj Sangle is eight years old, and is the only student at the village school. He lives in a small village called Chandor, in Maharashtra.

Little Yuvraj is often reluctant to go to school, because there is nobody there, apart from his teacher and himself. When Mr. Mendhe started teaching in this school eleven years ago, there were 11 children. But one by one, they all left to look for work in bigger villages or towns.

Chandor village has only fifteen huts, and sixty residents. There is no means of livelihood here. So everyone migrates to other states or cities to earn money.

The school is being operated owing to the dedicated efforts of Ranjini Kant Mendhe. This hardworking teacher travels fifty kilometres everyday to reach the school. It takes him more than one hour on his motorcycle to cover a twelve kilometre mud track off the highway. When it rains the track turns into an impassable mess. Yet, he does not give up.

On reaching the village, he often has to go looking for Yuvraj, who sometimes hides in the trees or in his little hut. “I understand his reluctance. He has to go to school without friends. Why would anyone look forward to classes here?” says Mr. Mendhe.

He tries his best to make the classes as interesting as possible for Yuvraj. Using a few wires, and a tiny TV set, he has been able to set up an e-learning facility. Even though the village has no electricity, he uses a solar panel to power a TV that screens downloaded content. He has also bought two tablets to boost Yuvraj’s interest in the world beyond the little classroom. Mr. Mendhe believes that this kind of exposure is very essential. He says, “Other children learn and play with those of their age, but Yuvraj has just me. For him, school has become just four walls with empty desks.”

Yuvraj’s best friend left the village, and moved to Kolhapur last year. “Rohit and I used to play football. He comes during the summer vacations. That’s all I look forward to now,” Yuvraj says.

A) Vocabulary: Please make your own sentences with the following words. The sentences should show that you understanding the meaning of the word.

reluctant – unwilling
livelihood – income
migrate – to travel from one region to another
dedicated – giving a lot of time and effort to something you believe in
impassable – not allowing passage over, through, along (the road)
e-learning – computer based learning
solar panel – a panel that generates power from the sun
boost – to improve, help or encourage

B) Discussion points:

  1. In which state is Chandor village located?
  2. Why does Yuvraj hide from his teacher?
  3. How does Mr. Mendhe make class more interesting for Yuvraj?
  4. Do you have a favourite teacher? Please talk about how he or she makes class interesting for you.
  5. Which do you think is better and why? E-learning or going to school?
  6. Have you ever considered becoming a teacher? Would you like to teach in a city or in a village school?
  7. Have you ever felt lonely – in school or at work?
  8. What do you do to feel less lonely?
  9. Please write/ say a few lines about hard work and dedication.
  10. Please discuss your ideal teacher. What qualities should he or she have?

Audio courtesy Tara Kriplani: