Harekala Hajabba, a 68-year-old fruit seller from Mangalore, Karnataka is one among the 118 people named by the government for the prestigious Padma Shri award, this Republic Day.
Hajabba, who himself didn't get any chance to receive formal education and earns merely ₹150 per day, has been instrumental in setting up a school in his village.
His village, Newpadapu, did not have a school until the year 2000 when he set up one with his meagre savings. Starting from 28 students in a madrassa, he somehow managed to construct a small building for the primary school using his savings and funds from a few philanthropists.
He continued his efforts and this year in June a high school building was also inaugurated for children between 10 to 14 years.
An encounter with two foreign tourists inspired him to open this school. In conversation with BBC, he elaborated on the incident.
The first time I felt handicapped because of my lack of education was when a foreigner asked me the price of the fruits in English. I didn't know what he meant. An idea struck me to start a primary school so that the young children of my village would not go through a similar situation.
This incident made him realise the importance of education and communication in one's life and he decided to do his best to provide education to the children of his village.
According to a tweet by IFS officer Parveen Kaswan, Hajabba got to know about him winning the prize while he was standing in a queue at a ration shop.
Harekala Hajabba was in a line on a ration shop when authorities informed him that he got #Padma Shri. This fruit seller from Dakshin Kannada is educating poor children in his village of Newpadapu from a decade in a mosque. Doing all the efforts including spending his savings. pic.twitter.com/rufL3RZ15o— Parveen Kaswan, IFS (@ParveenKaswan) January 26, 2020
Netizens are hailing Hajabba for his selfless efforts.
In the last few years we have seen a huge shift in the selection of awardees , we have got to see and hear of so many stories of common Indians doing so much good. This shift is good for the morale of the country— Mohan (@Mohanpn) January 26, 2020
He is the real influencer, the real hero and a deserved recipient of the recognition. M really happy to see today the country is recognizing the efforts of a common Indian in the likes of him and Tulasi Gowda ji.— Akshay Shetty (@akkiiboye) January 26, 2020
This is the true art of giving to make education a part of their living. A real hero— ramakrishna prasad (@luttufuttu) January 26, 2020
All the recognition he has gained, hasn't stopped him from dreaming further. He wishes to open a college in his village so that children can complete their higher education.
If we have a government college in our village, the poor families would not have to pay for higher education. So I have started saving and also requested the government to sanction a college in the village.
Education is indeed the best gift one can give to society and Hajabba's efforts are worth all the recognition and praise.