During Mahatma Gandhi's first satyagrah in Champaran in 1917, it was Bhitiharwa village in Motihari which caught his attention. Gandhi laid the foundation of a school here but even after 100 years this school is waiting for recognition by the government. Upon reaching Champaran for satyagrah in April 1917, Gandhi saw the condition of the indigo farmers who were forced to cultivate indigo instead of their usual crops.
Bapu realised that ignorance and illiteracy among the farmers had made it easy for the Britishers to exploit and repress them. So, Gandhi decided to set up schools to improve the economic and educational conditions of the people there.
He asked for land from the villagers to set up the schools, one of them being in Bhitiharwa village.
This school still exists today and villagers in memory of Gandhi are taking care of it.
Gandhi's wife Kasturba also taught for sometime in Bhitiharwa school.
Well known Gandhian S.N. Subba Rao said, "During his stay, Gandhiji took up residence at the houses of Braj Kishore Babu, Awadhesh Prasad Singh and Vindhyavasini Babu. Here after listening to the grievances of peasants, Gandhiji expressed his desire to set up a school."
Initially no farmer dared to give Bapu land for the school for fear of the landlords (mostly British) who enforced indigo farming at the cost of food crops.
Gandhi again came to Bhitiharwa village in November 1917, and this time Ramnarain Das gave him land to set up the school.
The thatched school was erected within 4 days and a separate cottage was also set up for Bapu.
Gandhi came here again on November 28, this time along with Kasturba, and stayed here for many days.
Kasturba took upon herself the responsibility to teach the children. That year, according to data available, as many as 80 children took admission in the school. Apart from Kasturba, some of Bapu's friends including Sadashiv Laxman Sovan, Balkrishna Yogeshwar and Dr. Shankar Dev, who had visited Champaran, also taught in the school.
Kasturba stayed in the village for six months even after Gandhiji moved to other places. She made sure that girls also attended the school. For this she launched a special drive to bring in the girl students from the village.
But this was not to the liking of the landlords who one day set the school on fire.
Gandhi in his autobiography has written about this in detail.
Now, this Bhitiharwa school has turned into a girls high school and is named Kasturba girls high school after Kasturba Gandhi.
A secretary of the school Dinesh Prasad Yadav told IANS that when no funds were available to construct the building of the school, the villagers came forward with donations and got the school building constructed.
Yadav said the school does not receive any benefits from the government. The biggest problem for the girls getting an education here is that their exam results are not recognised by the government.
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