The prestigious Padma Shri Awards were presented to people from different backgrounds on Monday (November 8) by President Ram Nath Kovind. Amongst the many awardees was an orange seller from Karnataka, whose contribution to children’s education was recognised by the government. Harekala Hajabba was named for India’s fourth-highest civilian honour for educating poor children in his village.

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He built a school for underprivileged children in his village in Karnataka’s Dakshin Kannada district by using his savings from his orange-selling business and was honoured for the same. Hajabba is a 68-years-old orange vendor in Mangaluru and said that since he never received formal education himself, he did not want the same fate for the children of his village of Newpadapu.

“I didn’t receive an education. This led me to build a school with a dream that every child in my village should be educated,” he told news agency ANI.

Initially, a school was set up by Hajabba at a local mosque after he managed to convince locals and well-wishers to help him to set up the school. He managed the school all by himself including duties like sweeping the school premises, boiling water for the children to drink, etc. Along with this, he often used to also travel 25 kilometres from his native village to meet with the Zilla Panchayat in Dakshina Kannada, and request them to formalise the educational facilities.

His efforts came into fruition in 2008 when a Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat Higher Primary School was created at Newpadupu village. After this, Harekala Hajabba also set up an organisation to get the funding of the school. Today, the school has 175 students upto Class 10. He now hopes that the government also sets up a pre-university college in the same premise for the children of his village. Interestingly, Hajabba’s motivational story is already a part of the undergraduate program at Mangalore University.

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