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Can a 13-year-old boy become a community leader? Rammilan, a class 8 student of Narsama Middle School, Riga, certainly made it possible. His journey of ensuring learning continuity turned into a mission for the community.

Rammilan is the youngest child of Indal Prasad Yadav and Pappu Devi. He has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. Providing two square meals to his family is a challenge for his father, who is a farmer.

Narsama village is 20km away from the block headquarter of Riga in Sitamarhi district of Bihar. When schools closed last year, Rammilan was left with no means to continue with his studies. His parents couldn’t afford private tuitions. It was up to the teenager to find a way out and ensure he can continue learning. He approached a private tutor in the village and convinced him that he would teach the younger kids on behalf of the coaching centre; in return, the tutor could teach him for free.

Meanwhile, Rammilan met Shabir Khan, a Bal Raksha Bharat appointed field coordinator under the project Keep Learning Alive at Narsama Middle School. Impressed by Rammilan’s zest for learning and eagerness to help others, headteacher Satrughna Prasad recommended Shabir engage Rammilan in the Reading Buddy initiative. Reading Buddies is a peer learning group where an older student buddies up with a younger student to help with his home tasks and reading skills.

Bal Raksha Bharat collaborated with UNICEF to implement the project ‘Keeping Learning Alive’ in 16 panchayats of the Riga block in Sitamarhi District of Bihar in September 2020. The main objective of this project is to support the learning continuity of all the boys and girls in the intervention area who are otherwise missing regular learning activities due to school closure. The intervention targets to provide continued learning support and get all children back to school, including those who have been out of school before the pandemic.

With the government of Bihar-UNICEF’s mobile learning model, Bal Raksha Bharat’s community-based educational approach, the focus is on those most at risk of dropping out, particularly the girls, ensuring that every child can be supported in return to school. Through the project, around 3,200 boys and 3,200 girls in 32 villages of Bihar were reached.

As part of the Reading Buddies programme, Rammilan was trained on life skill education and learnt more about social and gender norms, the adverse impact of child marriage and many other social and gender-biased practices. This training helped him in honing his leadership skills. It galvanised a change in him, and he became determined to ensure that no child in his village is deprived of education.

Championing the Reading Buddy objective, he started teaching children in his neighbourhood for free and provided support to 18 children in their studies. He has also provided writing materials to children who couldn’t afford them.

Rammilan is also part of a Bal Raksha Bharat WhatsApp group where information on COVID-19 is shared every day. He disseminates it to the villagers. He also makes home visits to educate parents on the importance of their child’s education.

“We don’t need money. We need a library which contains a variety of books so that we can learn. I will deliver the responsibilities that I have been entrusted with as a reading buddy. We need more such capacity building programmes,” said Rammilan. He hopes the programme is implemented on a large scale so that other children like him don’t struggle so hard to continue their education.
He aspires to become an IAS officer and serve the country. He believes in the power of education to fight poverty, hunger, and other evil practices.

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