Rahul Dubey was mere 19-year-old when he graduated from the Delhi University and came down to Udaipur for a three-month internship. He says ‘I was always a bright child and used to get great grades in school and college and so proceeded with mathematics in my academics. But this wasn’t what I wanted to do in my life. Another reason why I came to Udaipur was to find out what I really love.’
In 2012, what started as a three-month-long unpaid internship at Kherwara, a tribal village in Udaipur district became a turning point in his life. From a city like Delhi to a village in Kherwada, this was the first time for Rahul when he was witnessing the life there including huts, cows, farming, along with the issues like scarcity of water and electricity.
During his internship, he was meant to teach basic subjects to the children of a government school. It was the first time when he came across the education system there where the teachers didn’t use to come to the school, a single teacher was assigned to attend 80 students at once, many children used to drop out, many never came to the school, poor infrastructure and facilities was a huge void and all these issues disappointed him. Maybe that’s what made him stay a little longer.
So just after three weeks, he decided to extend his stay for 3 more months. In this time period, he removed all those barriers which were stopping him to achieve what he wanted. He worked on the language barrier as the language ‘wagdi’ was spoken in the village, he stayed at the houses of the natives, understood the customs and culture there, got involved in their festivals and rituals and he says “the journey was so wonderful that today it has been 7 years since he has been in this village and it feels like it was just yesterday. However, so much has changed all this while. The organization, Alfa Educational Society, where I started as a mere volunteer has my guidance now as a CEO.”
This is how the school ‘Village Spirit Academy’ fell into place!
Back in the year 2013, Rahul went to Nepal for another internship of his where he saw the natives, as well as other interns from different parts of the world, renovating a very poor conditioned school made out of bamboo on a hilly area. It was a very difficult project but no one there was ready to quit. The interns, never bothered about other worldly inhibitions, gave in everything in the school. The entire episode seeded the idea of making his own school in Rahul’s mind.
This school was to be made on the land of Lokesh Kalal, Rahul’s friend and the founder of Alfa Educational Society, and on 1st July 2016, the school was officially registered. On the very first day, they received a total of 99 admissions from the village.
Rahul wanted to build a school which turns out to be an ideal space for the children to learn and study even in the harsh climatic conditions including the scorching summer and aggressive monsoons. There were several problems awaiting their journey ahead.
After a lot of struggle and research, they finally got in touch with the architects of Chennai who helped them take another step towards their dream. Another challenge was the funding for the school. Since Rahul didn’t want to take up corporate funding, he organized an online portal for crowdfunding and received great support from people all around the world gathering an amount of 6 lac rupees.
For several days Rahul burnt the midnight oil to build an eco-friendly school made with huge mud blocks that could sustain the harshness of the climatic conditions. And all his efforts paid off in the year when his school ‘village spirit academy’ finally took a shape. He says that they might not have luxurious facilities in their school like fancy speakers, massive playground, LCD, but the structure of the school is such that it is fire resistant, sound resistant, earthquake resistant, and also adapts to the climatic temperature very efficiently. Children are happy and satisfied studying here.
“When the school was in its building phase, the round structure of the school made villagers think that we were building a church and will tell the students to convert. But when it got completed and they saw that it was an ordinary school, they became decisive.” Rahul funnily says.
How Did your Parents React to your Decision to Leave Delhi?
I belong to a very strong academic background. As every Indian parent would do, mine also wanted me to opt for secure and mainstream career options, and so apparently they were highly reluctant of my choices. During my internship period, which got unexpectedly extended, they were very concerned about where am I heading towards in my life, which clearly reflected in every phone call of theirs. They would tell me why I wanted to shift from a city to a village when everyone else was doing the opposite.
I remember them telling to continue my education and head for a master’s degree and so I enrolled in a college in Udaipur for Masters in Social Work, somewhere 100 km from my village. To attend college, I used to catch a bus at 5:30 in the morning and came to the village on the same bus by 7:30. Thereafter, I managed the school and NGO work and slept by 2:30 am and followed the same schedule every day.
One day I was traveling in the bus like any other day sitting on the ground of the bus when I received a call from the college. I heard someone saying that I had topped the University. When I communicated this to my mother, she would hardly believe that I even enrolled in a college and asked me to send the pictures of my fee receipts first.
It was actually the time which taught all of us, me to follow my dreams and them to understand my passion and let me do what I love.
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