New Delhi: Little did he know that when Ramjal Meena first started working at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as a security guard in 2014, he would enrol in the same university as a student some day. Last week, the 34-year-old first-generation learner from Rajasthan’s Karauli cracked the JNU entrance examination for admission into BA Russian (Hons).
“What makes JNU different is that people here do not believe in social hierarchy. Everyone — teachers and students — encouraged me; now they congratulate me. I feel like I have become famous overnight,” Meena told Hindustan Times.
Son of a daily wager, Meena attended a government school in his village Bhajera in the state of Rajasthan. But due to unfortunate circumstances, he had to discontinue his education later. “The nearest college was 28-30 km away. Moreover, I had to work to help my father too,” he said.
But with his grit and determination to learn never left him. Only last year, he graduated in Political Science, History and Hindi through distance learning from Rajasthan University.
Vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar told Hindustan Times, “We have always encouraged students from diverse backgrounds. We nurture them by providing them critical thinking ability.”
Meena, who is married and has three daughters, lives in a one-room-set in Munirka. “Though I got really busy addressing my family’s financial issues, the regret of not joining a regular college was always there. But when I saw the academic environment here, the dream was revived,” he said. Meena prepared for the entrance exam between and after duty hours.
“I follow newspapers through apps on my phone. Besides, students also helped me get PDF notes.”
He chose to study a foreign language so he could “see places”. “I have heard those who study foreign languages get to visit foreign countries. Moreover, I want to try my luck in civil services,” he said.
Notwithstanding all that, he still has persistent problems. “I am the sole earner and my wife is concerned about money. There is a rule that one cannot pursue regular education with work at JNU. I will request for night shifts,” said Meena, who earns a meagre Rs 15,000 a month.
Naveen Yadav, JNU chief security officer, said, “We are proud of him. But working night shifts with regular college is not possible. We will, however, extend all help possible to him.”
Back at work, Meena explained how people have developed “wrong perceptions” about JNU. “There are so many rumours about JNU after the February 2016 incident. But it’s not like students only protest; the university has given so many scholars to the country,” he told Hindustan Times, adding, “I also want to achieve something after studying.”