Indian Activist and Nobel Laureate 2014 Kailash Satyarthi’s congratulatory Tweet to Neeraj Murmu on July 2, 2020 read,
“What a proud moment for me, my organisation & India! My son Neeraj Murmu won prestigious #2020DianaAward for his exemplary work in spreading education. He was a child labourer in dangerous mica mines till 2011.”
The Tweet says it all! But here we will tell you – who is Neeraj Murmu, his life story, and how he won the Diana Award.
The Diana Award
The Diana Award established in 1999 in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales is the most prestigious award. Each year the board chaired by Gordon Brown honors young people aged between 9 and 25 years who have worked to improve the lives of others by social action or humanitarian work.
Neeraj Murmu was among 23 young Indians who virtually received the Diana Awards in July 2020.
Neeraj was a child slave forced to work in Jharkhand’s Duliyakaram mica mine. Though he yearned to go to school, the tribal kid was never allowed. But in 2011, the tide turned. The NGO named – Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation rescued Neeraj from slavery and child labor. The NGO enrolled Neeraj Murmu at Chandauri Middle School.
In 2016, Neeraj decided to save children from slavery. He began to encourage them to attend school in his village Duliakaram of Tisri block in Giridih district. He rented a room for Rupees 500 and started holding classes himself. His school, named after his angel savior ‘Kailash Satyarthi’, currently teaches one hundred students up to age 10.
Murmu has enabled 200+ underprivileged children to get an education and even abolished child labor from his village.
India is one of the world’s largest producers of mica. As per Indian law, children below the age of 18 years cannot work in mines and other hazardous industries. But ground reality was different in one Eastern state of India. Many families living in extreme poverty in Jharkhand forced children to work in mines to bring food to their tables. A 2016 investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found children as young as five years working in India’s mica mines. Few even died but the local authorities covered it up.
“Convincing parents to send their children to study is challenging, but I give them my example,” says Murmu, now a teacher to hundreds like him.
The Effort, the Result
Neeraj Murmu was elected as a member of the Bal Panchayat. His efforts paid off to stop child labor in his village and instead send children to school. Also, as the chairman of the gram Yuva Mandal, Murmu continues to take up issues faced by the people of his village with the Tisri Block office.
School in COVID
Neeraj Murmu has recently restarted his school, following the strict protocols of social distancing. During the lockdown months, he had to dismiss the school entirely because of a lack of internet and resources in his village. This young boy not only saved innumerable children from slavery but now aims to make his state the most literate.
Teachers like Neeraj Murmu make PM Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Education for All’ become a reality. We salute Neeraj, his spirit, and his contribution to society. From slavery to a school teacher, he is a true success story!