Bandipora, Mar 07: Living in the suburbs of Sonerwani village of North Kashmir's Bandipora district, Nisara Begum started working as a sweeper in a government school in her native village when she was in her twenties.
Over the years, Nisara has experienced a number of changes in the institution. Staff members and teachers coming and leaving , and the number of students growing. But things stayed the same for her. She continues to receive a small salary of Rs. 25 for her labour, which has significantly impacted her living situation.
While admitting that Nisara is getting a monthly honorarium of Rs 75, Abdul Majid Malik, Chief Education Officer Bandipora, told Rising Kashmir , "Government has created a policy to regularize CPEs and CPWs with a minimum qualification of 8th pass."
"Nisara is given a monthly honorarium of Rs 75. Because there is no policy or increment in monthly honorarium for those who have a qualification below 8th pass or have surpassed the age of sixty." Malik Said
For three decades, Nisara has been cleaning the sludge thrown by blooming buds inside the school. However, the hurdles in her path are yet to be taken off. She receives a handful of pennies for her service to the teachers and students from the day when she gave the first push to the broom on the furnishings of the school where she is working.
"I have been working as a sweeper in the school since 1995. Despite being in the same position for nearly three decades, I am only receiving a monthly honorarium of 25 rupees, which is hardly enough to make ends meet", Deprived Nisara said.
Nisara lost her only son in 2021 while her husband had died long ago. The sudden death of her son shooked Nisara. She now lives with her specially abled daughter who is her only family member, and they both live in a single room inside an adobe provided to them by her brother. Nisara is grateful for this but feels embarrassed about being a burden on her brother's family.
Despite such grim circumstances, Nisara takes great pride in her work. She is determined to keep the school clean and tidy, even though it is now a challenging job for her due to her bedridden health.
"I feel a sense of responsibility towards the children who attend the school. I want to provide them with a clean and hygienic environment for their studies," Nisara said.
Nisara who now works as CPE, was overjoyed when years before she overheard some of the teachers talking about the government's plan to increase the honorarium for sweepers. ''The news gave me hope that I might finally get a raise after all these years. I went to the headmaster's office and asked him if he had heard about this. He confirmed the news and promised to help me in the best possible way." she said.
"I was overjoyed at this news. I knew that even a small increase in my pay would make a significant difference to me and my daughter's life", Nisara told Rising Kashmir.
Years passed, but nothing changed for Nisara Begum. Only a sum of 50 rupees was enhanced in her pay, which makes it a total of 75 rupees per month which according to Nisara is not a big deal. She continues to live in the same small room with her daughter.
However, her hard work did not go unnoticed. The teachers, students at the school and the inhabitants of the area admired her dedication and commitment towards her work.
Habibullah Akhoon, a parent whose son is studying in the same school where Nisara sweeps every morning said, "I am in my sixties now, but I have never seen Nisara sitting at home in the working days. She is the first who opens the gates of the school every morning and who closes them every evening. She keeps every patch of the soil neat and clean inside the school premises. But despite that, she doesn't get what she deserves, which is hard to believe, "Habibullah said.
Although her dedication and hard work is yet to pay off. But, her story is an inspiration to many and an example that in the face of adversity, one should never lose hope and with hard work and determination, anything is possible.