dreamt of educating children and also changing the socio-economic
conditions of people in her West Bengal village. And 55-year-old Shabnam Ramaswamy found a novel way to do that - she employed
reformed criminals in her English medium school.
Ramaswamy set up the Jagriti Public School in Katna village of
Murshidabad district five years ago. Not only is it a rare English
medium school in the area but it also offers a great opportunity
for education to impoverished village children.
"I was born in Katna. I have always dreamt of having an English
medium school in this village to educate the children. I wanted to
impart them education in English, so that they do not lag behind
their city counterparts," Ramaswamy told IANS.
Katna village of Murshidabad district, which was once known for
criminals, poverty and unemployment, is now famous for the school
that employs former criminals and an embroidery cooperative
society, again run by her, that engages 1,400 women.
"There were many criminals in these areas but they were not born
criminals. They took up crime because of poverty. When they got a
job in the school, they left crime," said Ramaswamy, a former
student of La Martiniere for Girls, Kolkata.
"We have employed gardeners, cooks and drivers who were earlier
criminals, but now they are just like you and me," she added.
Ramaswamy runs a cooperative society of Kantha embroidery with
more than 1,400 women of the area to raise funds for running the
"We run a Kantha embroidery cooperative society with more than
1,400 women of the area. The profit is channelled into the
development of the school," Shabnam said.
The school provides education free of cost to impoverished
children, who make up 30 percent of the over 460 student strength.
Jagriti Public School follows the Central Board of Secondary
Education (CBSE) curriculum and conducts classes till Class 7. The
school, when established in 2005, had classes till Class 2.
"Next year, we will have Class 8 also. Every year, we increase one
class. We hope to get CBSE affiliation within next year," Shabnam
When asked what eggs her on to continue her mission, she said it
was the women of the area who in spite of various economic hurdles
still cherish life and carry on the difficult job of bringing up
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