This teacher travels 63 kms daily through dangerous terrain to teach just one student
Rajnikant Mendhe has been taking this extraordinary journey for the last three-and-a-half years
Rajnikant Mendhe. Pic/Sameer Markande
Here's an inspiring story of a 30-year-old teacher, who lives on the outskirts of Pune and travels 63 kilometres daily through a dangerous terrain just to reach a school, which has just one student since last year in a village named Chandar in Pune's Haveli Taluka. It has just 30 houses and a population of 350. Rajnikant Mendhe has been taking this extraordinary journey for the last three-and-a-half years. Mendhe a native of Nagpur, completed his Diploma in Education (DEd) in 2010 and applied for a job in Zilla Parishad school and was selected and posted there.
It took Mendhe three days to find the small village in Pune and coming from a city, he was shocked to see it when he first came in July 2010 to teach in the ZP school which has classes till standard 4th. He was appointed after the previous teacher retired and lived there for the first four-and-a-half years. The villagers send their children to this school till 4th standard, after which they are sent to nearby schools in Pune. After schooling, most of them either work in the village or take up jobs in Mumbai and Surat. "There is just one big classroom in which students of all the classes sit and I teach everyone in turns," said Mendhe. The first big challenge came in September when Mendhe's father Sukhshyam died in a road accident in Nagpur and he almost gave up the job but decided to stick around as he had family responsibility.
Around 2015, Mendhe married Swati and they settled down in Khanapur which is 63 kms from Chandar and his adventurous journey began, which starts at 5 am daily on a Hero Honda Splendor bike and he reaches the school at 7.30 am after a two-and-a-half-hour drive. Describing the journey, Mendhe says the road from Khanapur to Panshet, which is roughly 15 km is the best road but from Panshet to Mangaon, a 36 km stretch is through 3 mountains and is a rough stretch. However, the biggest challenge is while travelling from Mangaon to Chander, a 12 km ride where the road is non-existent and there is a thick forest and snakes and animals that have posed a threat several times, apart from the fact that there is a steep valley and if the bike skids there is no chance of survival. During rains when its even more risky, Mendhe stays in the village for a couple of days and tries to go return home at least twice a week, the bike which he uses is parked at Mangaon. He has kept gas and other materials in the school where he stays over in rains. Mendhe's school ends at 12.30 pm and he reaches home by around 3-3.30 pm daily.
Mendhe currently teaches just one student Yuvraj Sangle (8), who is in the second standard. Yuvraj says Mendhe sir is a very kind teacher and teaches him on a TV. Yvuraj's residence is just in front of the school and the moment he sees Mendhe he rushes to the school. Mendhe says Yuvraj is a bright student and his enthusiasm makes him forget about his tough travel.
Mendhe gets all information in a pen drive and attaches it to the TV which he got for the school and imparts knowledge. "He teaches all the subjects, apart from drawing and even plays cricket with me," says Yuvraj. However, the future seems better as four students have enrolled for next year. The school enrols students only after they turn five years. Mendhe has set up a first aid kit in school and also has set up a solar power plant.
The villagers don't just like Mendhe they worship him for his commitment and his helpful nature. Jingabai Sangle (55) says Mendhe is very regular and is rarely absent and even for a single student he is very committed and he even helps the villagers and gets things for them. While police Patil Ramchandra Sangle said that they were very fortunate to have a teacher like Mendhe sir, who has been with them for the past 8 years and has helped the village get solar power which provides electricity and he even gets medicines for us.
The teacher earns around Rs 25,000 per month and spends nearly Rs 4,500 on petrol. He even spends on the stationary and other school activity.
Mendhe and his wife now have an 18-month daughter, and till recently Swati was not aware of the dangers her husband faces while reaching his workplace. "Ever since I have learned about the travel I am anxious as there is no network in the village. We will try for a transfer as he has completed 8 years," she added.
Mid Day travels to Chander:
Getting to Chandar was not an easy task by any means and Mid-Day's team faced a lot of problems initially from Panshet onward and between Mangaon and Chandar the car broke down and pushing it was of no help. Finally a pickup truck came to our rescue and it went out of its way to drop us off at the village.
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