Orange vendor who built school from savings, now charting his next step-a college

Harekala Hajabba
Harekala Hajabba

66-year-old Muslim orange vendor Harekala Hajabba, having no schooling, received India’s second-highest civilian award Padma Shri for bringing a revolution in rural education by constructing a school in a Mangalore village which now has 175 underprivileged students studying there.

Hajabba who never has been to school and has been selling oranges at Mangaluru bus depot since 1977, built a primary school with his earnings of Rs 150 per day.

He received the award from President Ram Nath Kovind for his efforts on Monday.

Harekala Hajabba’s village Newpadapu did not have a school for many years. All the village children were deprived of their right to education. Then, in 2000, the old man invested all his life savings and started a school on one acre of land.

He decided to bring revolution in education in his village came to his mind in 1978 when a foreigner asked him about the cost of orange. He couldn’t communicate with the customer and he got embarrassed.

“As I could not communicate with the foreigner, I felt bad and decided to build a school in the village, I only know Kannada, not English or Hindi. So I was depressed as I could not help the foreigner. I wondered about constructing a school in my village” the Padma Awardee told ANI news agency.

The school started with 28 students and now accommodates 175 students until Class 10.

“I never had the opportunity to access education, and I did not want the children in the village to suffer the same fate, Today, the school has 175 students with classes up to the 10th standard,” he added.

Thufail Muhammad, a senior journalist at The Hindu newspaper who has covered Hajabba during his struggles, had told BBC Hajabba had sacrificed much of his family life to make his dreams come true, and had inspired many in the process.

Hajabba is now working to turn his next dream into reality – getting a college for his village.

“I have requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to construct a pre-university college (for Class 11 and 12 students) in my village,” he told ANI news agency.

“My target is to build more schools and colleges in my village. Many people have donated money and I have accumulated prize money for purchasing the land for the construction of schools and colleges,” he adds.