The life story of an Orange fruit seller Hajabba, an uneducated man from Harekala village in Mangaluru, is no less than a drama that can unfold on screen and inspirational on all counts. Hajabba built a school for the poor children in his village and is known for the revolution he has brought in rural education within his state.
Harekala Hajabba lives in the village of New Papdu in Harekala, around 25 km from Mangaluru. Growing up as a boy in a very poor family, Hajabba always nurtured the dream of rolling beedis in the city. However, life took another turn and forced him to sell oranges instead.
“I have never been to school. At a young age, poverty pushed me into taking up a job selling oranges. One day, I encountered two foreigners who wanted to buy a few oranges from me. They started speaking to me in English and asked about the price of the oranges. But I was unable to converse with them. I could understand only local Tulu and Beary languages, so I simply stared wordlessly at the couple until they walked off. I felt humiliated after this incident and was ashamed that the language barrier made them walk away,” Hajabba says.
Not wanting anyone else to go through what he had experienced, his life’s mission suddenly became clear to him. From that day onwards, Hajabba kept part of his savings from selling oranges and worked towards setting up a school in the region he came from so that the poor children there could get educated.
But his dream of building the school did not come easy. He had to face the ire of his wife for saving money out of his earnings for the school as it denied their children’s three meals a day. In 1999 he convinced his fellow residents and started a school in a community mosque with few children. He worked hard to get government aid and then to upgrade it to a secondary school.
In 2004, Hajabba got a small patch of land sanctioned for the school. However, he realised that his savings would not be enough to build a school. So he started approaching people for money. He had to face rebuke of the people and was ridiculed when he went to seek funds. Slowly, Hajabba gathered enough money and constructed a small primary school on the land.
Soon, recognition began pouring in from every corner. And with the recognition came the donations. Today, the school stands proudly on 1.5 acres of land in the village and has as many as 150 children studying there. From being a primary school, it has now become a secondary school. Before Mr. Hajabba built his school, students from Harekala had to walk 3 km to reach the nearest aided schools.
“My duty was to only construct the school. I gave it to the government and now the government runs it. It is not only a school for Muslims. Poor children from every religion study in the school,” he says.
Today, the school, which has grown with government support and donations from private individuals, is known as Hajabba School. He now plans to construct a Government Pre-University College in his village and has already started working towards the goal. His relentless aim toward the the betterment of children has him many laurels. Social activist and writer Ismath Pajeer has published a book on his life, which is titled as ‘Harekala Hajabbara Jeevana Charitre’ (Life story of Harekala Hajabba). His life story is now a lesson in the syllabus of Mangalore University MA course. He is affectionately known as ‘ Akshara Santa’ (The saint of letters) in Mangalore city.