By Abner Manzar
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the nationwide lockdown in March 2020. The millions of migrants living in cities lost their source of livelihood and head back to their villages. Deepak Kumar Munda, 21 was one such migrant worker. He used to work in Bangalore as a labourer and returned to his village Khakhra in Jharkhand as the 2020 lockdown left him unemployed. He migrated in 2020 because he couldn’t find a stable source of income in the village. He had to leave his studies after class 10 because his family couldn’t afford sending him to school anymore; they needed him to earn money. He has two younger sisters who are studying in a government school. His father is a labourer and his mother a housewife. His father’s income is not enough to run the house. Here is his full interview and video from when the DEF team met him in June 2020 after he came back to his village from Bangalore. Speaking with Deepak it was obvious that he had a lot of potential and he was immediately identified as a candidate for any upcoming projects.
In 2020 people were facing hardships because of the pandemic and Digital Empowerment Foundation ramped up its work in the area and served the community through various projects. Deepak was identified for one of these projects and was asked to join to help raise awareness about COVID-19 amongst the villagers. Deepak grabbed this opportunity and dedicated himself to the project. He conducted youth meetings and community meetings about COVID-19, he also made announcements, distributed leaflets and spread awareness about the pandemic by painting on walls and sending informative WhatsApp messages. He is an optimistic and determined youngster and is always excited about working for the betterment of his community and family.
Seeing the quality of his work and the dedication with which he served the community further support was extended to him. He was given additional digital equipment and the responsibility to train 100 women entrepreneurs on digital tools. The aim of the project was to digitally enable these women so that they can improve their business as the pandemic has forced everyone to go online. Along with the training he also opened a digital center and started providing services like photocopy, print and he also made people aware about government schemes and entitlements. In doing so he made sure he would make this a sustainable model- he earned money through these services but as a social worker he didn’t overcharge for these services.
Due to a series of lockdowns and precautionary measures, the government decided to close all primary and high schools. Privileged students who have access to digital tools and go to private schools are continuing their education online, however, underprivileged students in rural parts of the country don’t have this luxury; they have gone without education for the last one and a half years.
Under these circumstances Deepak has taken the responsibility to teach primary and high school students twice a day at his digital center. He is teaching them all the major subjects and also conducts tests and examinations every few weeks to judge their aptitude and level of education. Moreover, Deepak provides these students with digital literacy, giving these students practical skills that they will require when they look for employment. Deepak uses the tablet provided to him by DEF to find course material for the students, in fact he has very few books, he uses the device in class to conduct his lessons.
Deepak charges a nominal tuition fee but students who can’t afford to pay their fees can join his classes without any cost. He teaches students at his center during the day and at night in the panchayat bhawan of his village Khakhra with the unanimous consent of the villagers and the village headman.
Deepak Kumar Munda became a role model in his locality and people are inspired by his selfless effort. The future of a whole generation is at stake because of lack of access to education and Deepak is doing his part to help students gain access to education. Deepak understands better than anyone what it means to struggle and he chose to struggle through his difficult time and overcome it on the basis of his dedication and hard work.
Abner Manzar is part of DEF’s Media and Communications team. A filmmaker and writer, he is travelling across DEF’s clusters to document the impact that DEF has had in those regions.