“In the post-partition years, thousands of South Asians moved to the rich -countries – US, Canada, and England. Educated young men and women refugees offered educational services within free India. But little do we know about the contribution of those who silently worked to support our primary education system, especially in our villages.
The author, Sujata Thapa, had the blessing of one such PIO (Person of Indian Origin) – who was born and educated in England, and came to India in 1960. Nirmala Sharma, age 85, devoted 60 years to helping and guiding Indian village communities… she walked 3-4 miles daily to reach the village to spend 3-4 hours providing the village children with free educational materials and founded ‘The Shishu Chetna Kendra’.”
By Sujata Thapa
Dehradun, 26 Jul: There are some people in society, who neither want a name nor have the attachment for money. Away from fame, they silently engage in the service of society selflessly. One such social activist is Nirmala Sharma of Dehradun, who is nurturing the future generation of the country.
Education specialist Nirmala Sharma, who grew up in Britain, came to Dehradun and started the ‘Shishu Chetna Kendra’ in Bhagwantpur for the all-round development of children deprived of modern facilities. In this ‘Shishu Chetna Kendra’, children develop scientific consciousness, reasoning intelligence through the modern education system. On 27 July, 2023, we celebrate her 85th birthday.
She was born on 27 July, 1938, in London. She has studied at the University of Michigan and Hawaii in the US. When she was 22 years old, she was married to scientist Professor Dhirendra Sharma. After living abroad for many years, the couple decided to move back to India in May 1998.
While roaming in the village, she saw that the little children belonging to poor families were deprived of good education. Their parents would also not pay much attention to them. She made up her mind to open a school where the future of the nation could be cultivated.
She opened a free nursery school for the children of the village in May 2001.
Nirmala Sharma says that the development of the brain starts from the age of two and a half years. If, during this time, the development of reasoning and creativity in them is possible, then their all-round development is also possible. Knowledge of mathematics and colours is very important for the development of intelligence. She says that the work of education does not end only at the school but the home is also very important. She considers the women of the village as future mothers, for this she taught them better care and cleanliness of the children. She believed that a healthy mind can live only in a healthy body, so children were given one teaspoon of vitamins every day at the ‘Shishu Chetna Centre’, so that they did not lack nutrients. Their health was taken full care of and, for this, deworming of children was done every six months. This effort of hers has brought a lot of change in the mindset of the people of the village. They have become particular about cleanliness and have started paying attention towards proper education and character development of children.
When the seventh anniversary of the centre was celebrated on 2 March, former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam (who was a dear friend of the couple) sent a special message, in which he wrote – “I am happy that Nirmala’s Shishu Chetna Kendra is celebrating its seventh anniversary. I congratulate Nirmala and her team of teachers for their significant effort to empower children to join the mainstream of society through knowledge. I still remember the day when I visited her place and the school, Shishu, in 2006, where children displayed their multifaceted talents through poems, plays, pictures and songs.”
On this special day, as we celebrate Nirmala Sharma’s 85th birthday, we not only wish her a happy birthday but also bow in admiration and gratitude to the Silent Social Activist engaged in building the Future. Her selfless dedication and tireless efforts in nurturing the young minds of our nation have shaped a brighter tomorrow for generations to come. May her legacy continue to inspire and guide us all towards a better and more compassionate world. Happy Birthday, dear Nirmala Sharma!