Children from a small village in
Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh district crossing a bridge funded by
their parents to get them education across a river in a town
Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh): They wanted their children to get good quality education
which they were bereft of. So people in a small village of Uttar
Pradesh funded a bridge to send their kids to study in a town
across the river.
The number of students has been increasing in schools, colleges
and madrassas on the other side of the Kunwar river in Saraimeer
town, which has several educational and technical institutions and
The construction of the bridge at Towa village, 35 km from
Azamgarh city and 240 km from Lucknow, started in 2004 but it was
stopped several times for want of money. The bridge was completed
in 2009, but there was no road to link it. It became finally
operational in 2010.
Towa, which has schools of up to Class 5 only, has a population of
5,000, but the bridge connects around 100,000 people of over 50
villages in the area.
The bridge has six pillars and was built with Rs.65 lakh
contributed though public donations.
The entire construction was supervised by Shakeel Ahmed, a Class 5
pass out and resident of Towa, who took the initiative to build
the concrete bridge which seems like a 'knowledge bridge' for the
nearly 800 students who cross it daily for their studies.
He took the lead after a boat containing a dozen students
overturned, leaving an eight-year-old student named Saifullah dead
and several injured in the flood season in 1998.
Preeti Yadav, a housewife of Lahideeh village, sends her five
children through the bridge to different schools. She is not
worried about their security.
"I feel comfortable now and send my youngest son and daughter also
to school for their bright future."
There are two other pathways that lead to Saraimeer town but these
are 20 km long and the road through the bridge is only two
kilometres. Even public transportation is rare.
Mohammed Arshad, head of the primary section of Madrasatul Islah,
a century-old Islamic madrassa, said the number of students from
Towa and neighbouring villages is increasing.
"There are more students in Islah from the region now. Younger
children also take admission now," Arshad told IANS.
"Earlier, it was very hard for them to attend the class timely,
especially in the rainy season," he said.
According to Shakeel, it was not an easy task. "It was hard to
collect money from people. In the beginning they thought that I
will cheat on them."
"I was out of home because I was collecting money. My elder
brother was headman of the village and thought that it was a
matter of insult," he added.
"I couldn't study much, but I wanted to make my children
educated," he said.
To collect money Ahmad visited Mumbai, Delhi and Dubai where
people from Azamgarh and neighbouring areas go frequently to earn
Naeem Akhtar, who survived the boat accident, remembered: "I can't
forget it. I will remember that painful moment my whole life."
"Whenever I go through the way, my legs shake with fear and the
image of Saifullah suddenly comes in front of my eyes."
And there are only good words for Shakeel.
"Shakeel did a marvellous job to spread education and he should be
given some award," said Akhtar, who has completed his
post-graduation in English literature from Chhatrapati Shahu Ji
Maharaj University in Kanpur.
(Abu Zafar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)