No longer in the dumps: A bank officer transforms the lives of Danapur’s ragpicker girls

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Ragpickers, slum dwellers and orphan children in Bihar’s Danapur, for whom attending school was always a distant dream, can now complete their education with the help of an NGO called ‘Nai Dharti’.

Sister Nivedita Girls’ School run by ‘Nai Dharti’, in Maner block of Danapur’s Sarai village, is providing free education to 100 underprivileged girls who cannot even afford school supplies.

In a bid to educate disadvantaged girl children in the state, this NGO, run by Nandita Banerjee a former bank manager, is providing free stationery kit, uniforms to encourage girls to go to school and hone their hidden talents like painting, dancing, etc.

Most of these young ragpickers would gaze longingly at kids clad in starched uniforms, walking to school every morning. But now they can materialise their dreams of completing secondary education as they can live in the school boarding free of cost.

Nandita Banerjee, who is also the secretary of ‘Nai Dharti’, told IANS that seeing young girls toiling for hours in the rubbish dumps to make a living, prompted her to drive a paradigm shift in the field of education.

“Even while working in a bank, I used to do philanthropic work, but later I realised that it is not enough to help elders. Something should be done for the underprivileged children too,” she said.

After this, Nandita quit her job and started working for homeless children. She decided to open schools for impoverished girls and started ‘Nai Dharti’ in 2011.

“At least 5 girls first came to us in 2009. We opened the school in 2011. The institution received recognition till Class 8 in 2013,” she said.

For the first time in 2020, five girls from the school passed their 10th board exam, conducted by the Bihar Board of Open Schooling and Examination.

Tanu Kumari, who secured 79 per cent marks in her Class 10 boards, is a 12th grade student today. She aspires to become a doctor, and is a hostelier here. Tanu’s father died due to alcohol-related causes while her mother is behind the bars for the last two years for selling liquor.

“This story is not just about one Tanu. There were many such girls, who thought school was a distant dream, due to poverty. But today they have matriculated,” Nandita said.

According to Nibha Kumari, who matriculated recently, this education has helped her break free from the shackles of poverty. If it was not for Nandita’s pledge to sponsor their education, she would have been begging or ragpicking. But today, she dreams of becoming a doctor and engaging in philanthropic work to help those still wallowing in the fringes of society.

Talking about the facilities provided by her organisation, Nandita, said: “The school has a computer lab and science lab. We are making a lot of effort to hone these kids in things they are good at.”

“Recently, two girls here won awards in painting. These children are being taught to turn their weaknesses into strengths.”

However, Nandita does not take any help from the government. She runs her NGO from the donations received from other organisations. Her husband Ratindra Kumar Banerjee has also joined her in her work. Though they initially faced financial trouble, a lot of people have now come forward to support them.

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