Mr. Prakash Kolhe
Progressive English Medium School, Nashik
Every small-scale farmer has the potential to become an entrepreneur. Mr. Prakash Kolhe is a living example of that. Born to farmworkers in a small village in Nashik, Kolhe spent most of his childhood working in the field with his mother.
One summer, their village went dry, forcing the entire family to leave to find work in other villages, and this is where the real struggle began.
They did not have their own home and lived in a small hut provided by the Landlord for whom his parents worked. “As a child, I would accompany my mother to the market and move the heap of grass from one location to another.
It took me many painful days to finally realise that education is the only key to end my struggles and do something meaningful with my life,” Kolhe was beaming with pride as he shared his journey.
Kolhe went on to become an edupreneur and started many small-scale institutes to serve children from low-income families. “Other children should not have to go through what I went through as a child,” he expressed. This is Mr. Prakash Kolhe’s story.
Kolhe was a bright student but he faced many difficulties in school because he couldn’t read or write as well as his classmates. However, he was not the type to give up easily. He studied in a very small village called Nimgaon Wakada in Nashik district.
Every day after school, he would cut grass for cattle from the field and sell it at the nearby market. This way, he could financially support his family and meet his own education expenses up to his final academic degree.
He completed a vocational Electrical course, a diploma in industrial electronics, and A.M.I.E before starting his career as an Electrical Engineer at Crompton Greaves, Nashik.
Being a son of farmworkers, he strongly believed in focusing on the long-term goal instead of flaring up and then flaming out suddenly. “You reap what you sow,” is an adage Kolhe firmly believes in and adds that as a farmworker himself, he wanted to make decisions in terms of decades, not days.
Interested in the field of education since childhood, Kolhe left his job at Crompton Greaves to work as a teacher at K.K.Wagh Engineering College in Nashik. From there, he decided to establish Manavdhan Samajik Shaikshanik Vikas Sanstha in Nashik in 2004. “I believe that education comes not only from the school but also from nature and every other aspect of the world,” his words echoed.
He was inspired after reading Bharat 2020 and decided that his ultimate goal was to serve humanity. “I realised that I am working today and living a better life because I am a well-educated person.
I wanted to share my knowledge and give those children education who are not privileged because there was a time when I would have appreciated the same thing done for me,” he shared and told us about accepting Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam as a mentor and how his values inspired him to invest in the education industry.
Opening up the schools
Kolhe used funds from his own provident fund account to establish Progressive English Medium School in 2005. He also sold his own house for the establishment of the school. “When I was invited as a guest in the Patathi area, I learnt that children in that area traveled far to get to this one school.
I was told that many children had died while crossing that highway on their way to their school. Therefore, many parents refused to send their children to that school, and those who did were concerned about their children’s safety until they returned.
Shocked and overwhelmed, I decided to open a school in that area so no children will ever have to go through that turmoil again,” he noted.
“When parents first arrived for admission, there were no benches, no chairs, and nothing in the office for them to sit on. Nonetheless, it started with the little that we had and admissions grew so quickly in just two months that we had to construct a five-room building,” he explained how the school started from zero.
The number of children in the first year was 149, and Kolhe proudly claimed that it has grown to 3000 in 2022. Dhanalakshmi Primary and Secondary School, Junior College, Progressive and English Medium School, Bright English School, and Jadhav School have all been established by Manavdhan Sanstha in the state.
Pathadi also runs a residential educational institution. ”This way, we are attempting to contribute to the well-being and education of children.”
Support from Varthana
“I couldn’t get help from the bank when I needed money for building the institutions. Some schools had no walls, while others had leaves in place of walls.
We were in desperate need of funds. That time we came to know about Varthana. We took out a loan and bought a place for the school, then later bought a building too.” said Kolhe about his association with Varthana.
Prakash also mentioned how Varthana has helped him with the expansion of the schools over the years, “We have benefited immensely from Varthana funds. We have created a computer lab and children are now more enthusiastic to attend school, every day.
We have made many infrastructure changes in the school with the additional funding that we have received so that children can learn while having fun.
The best thing about Varthana was that during COVID-19 when we were finding it difficult to pay the regular EMIs, they supported and helped us regularise the EMIs till our situation improved.”
COVID-19 challenges and learning gap
“I think the era of COVID-19 was like a scourge on the world. People from all walks of life had to face many problems like hunger, disease, and unemployment. One sector that has been affected the most – and will continue to be for a long time – is education,” Kohle added when asked about the challenges faced during the time of COVID-19.
He further said that he created the Manavdhan Digital School App with the help of a former student to make up for the learning loss in children and speed them up on the lost chapters. Many children from Maharashtra benefited from this app, which included online books and other educational content, but the challenges continued.
Some parents only had one smartphone, which allowed their children to study at home; however, many were unable to purchase mobile phones. So Kohle helped those parents buy mobiles while taking little to no fees for school. Both the parents and he shared the burden during these tense couple of years.
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A possible fourth wave and the future
“Earlier parents were not so careful about their children’s education, especially in these village areas, but since COVID-19 the scenario has changed,” he expressed. “Some changes have been seen in children too.
Unlike in the past, children now want to come to school because they enjoy their time here and on the playground.
This positivity and change has been seen both in children and parents, and I believe it will continue for a long time. And for this reason, any fourth wave will be unable to stop us from progressing.”