There are those who will not allow the school to be named after him

It seems there are those who consider 13 years of labour to establish a government school just not “big enough” to be honoured. Though fruit vendor Harekala Hajabba’s efforts bore fruit, there are people of the town who will not allow the school to be named after him.

Mr. Hajabba hoarded his meagre earnings from selling fruits in Hampankatta market for 13 years in the hope that a school could be set up in the village. His struggles attracted media attention and sponsors followed through. In 2008, a primary school was opened, followed by a separate building for a high school in 2012. There are 300 students in the school today.

With its growing popularity, several people had suggested the school be named after Hajabba, said Veena G.H., school headmistress. She proposed his name to the School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) in February, and she was “surprised” when six out of nine members put their foot down.

“A government circular says we can name schools after those who have donated or helped the school. However, members said they wanted a “bigger name”, and pushed for it to be named after Indira Gandhi,” she said.

It is imperative that the SDMC approves the name. From there, the decision is forwarded to the Block Education Officer, then the taluk panchayat, before being finalised by the Deputy Director Public Instruction.

This is not the first time Mr. Hajabba has faced resistance in the school. When he was appointed vice-president of the SDMC, members protested saying the post could only be given to a person who has a ward studying in the school. MLA U.T. Khader, who is president of the SDMC, had quelled the opposition: “Two members had even walked out (of the meeting) then. For some reason, people in the town do not want to support him. I’ll call for a meeting soon, and try to convince the members about the naming,” Mr. Khader said. Mr. Hajabba said he was “taken aback” by the opposition. “I don’t know why they opposed it. At least the public know how much of a struggle has gone into building the school,” he said.

Abdul Razak of the National Human Rights Centre, who helped Mr. Hajabba collect funds, said: “He helped out during the construction of the school and even now, he maintains the lawns in the school. By asking why it should be named after him, the SDMC members are insulting his dedication.”

Unfazed by the controversy, Mr. Hajabba is already thinking of his next project: to raise Rs. 5 lakh to level the steep incline around the school for a children’s playground.

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