'I will study at a private English medium school and become an IAS officer, my aim is clear.'
At an age when most children in Bihar are playing games on mobile phones or playing in the streets and fields, a 11-year-old Class 6 student at the Kalyan Bigha Middle School in Harnaut, Nalanda district, is giving tuitions to younger students so that he can earn some money and support his school education.
Sonu Kumar has made up his mind to leave the government school he attends and enrol at a private English medium school so that he can achieve his dream of becoming an IAS/IPS officer.
When Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited his ancestral village Kalyan Bigha in Nalanda district on Saturday, May 14, 2022, Sonu was among the villagers who gathered to see him. Sonu's repeated entreaties of 'Suniye na Sir' caught Nitish Kumar's ear and he stopped interacting with other villagers to listen to the child.
The quality of education imparted at his government school, Sonu told the chief minister, was of poor quality, and asked if Nitish Kumar would help secure him admission at a private school.
Moved by Sonu's appeal, Nitish Kumar directed local officials to look into Sonu's request and help him.
"Kaise bhi ho hum private Angrezi school mein padhenge aur IAS banege, mera aim seedha hai. Humne CM Sir se bhi mang kiya hai (I will study at a private English medium school and become an IAS officer, my aim is clear. I have made this request to CM sir too)," Sonu tells Rediff.com's Senior Contributor M I Khan in a telephone conversation from Neema Kaul village in Nalanda district.
Sonu says he informed "Nitishji" and local media representatives that his father, who is employed as a milkman, does not have the financial means to educate him.
"I want quality education for a career as IAS or IPS," Soni insists, adding, "Hopefully, the government will fulfill my dream."
Since his encounter with the chief minister, several officials, including district education officers, have met Sonu following Nitish Kumar's instructions that they help the child pursue his education.
By giving tuitions to 30 children from Class 1 to 5, Sonu earns Rs 2,000 to 2,500 per month.
"As the teachers in my school lack knowledge and are hardly able to teach me properly," says Sonu, "I have purchased books, a smart mobile phone and Internet connection for my studies."
Bihar's former deputy chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Kumar Modi met Sonu on Tuesday, May 17, and assured him of monthly financial help of Rs 2,000 till Class 10. Modi also assured Sonu that he would ensure his admission at a government-run residential Navodaya Vidyalaya.
On Tuesday, Sonu also spoke to Bihar's former health minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal MLA Tej Pratap Yadav and requested RJD founder Lalu Prasad Yadav's elder son to help him get admission at a good private school.
"We know Sonu is brilliant and wants to study in a good school," says his mother Leela Devi, "but we can't do anything. This forced him to request Nitish Kumar for help."
Leela Devi has not been to school herself, but knows that if Sonu gets quality education he will achieve something in his life.
"Hum bhi chahte hai ke Sonu ka achcha school mein admission ho. Hum Sonu ko bada officer -- DM, collector -- bante dekhna chahte hai (We want Sonu to secure admission in a good school. We want to see Sonu as a big officer -- DM, collector)," Leela Devi adds.
Her neighbours say Sonu is very intelligent, sharp, vocal and hard working.
"Since early childhood Sonu has been impressing people, particularly outsiders, by his knowledge and confidence to communicate with young and old," says Ramnaresh Prasad, an elderly villager.
Another villager, Ganesh Kumar, says Sonu needs to be carefully nurtured with proper education and environment.
"Sonu is a gifted child and has been working hard," says Ganesh Kumar.
Sonu's school teachers are unhappy over his revelation that the school has poor quality education and the teachers lack knowledge.
No school teacher agreed to speak to this correspondent for this feature.
"Sonu is right," says Ganesh Kumar. "The teachers are not able to teach children."