Heard of a bank giving loans to purchase pencils, erasers and also to get schoolchildren’s hairs cut and have a good bath with shampoo?

Sounds strange but a government school in Bihar is running such bank for the past four months which has not only fulfilled the education dream of the poor, unprivileged children but also created awareness about cleanliness. The bank, operating at upgraded middle school, Kabirpur-Budasi in Goplaganj district, has given loans to around 200 poor children so far. It gives a minimum of Re 1 coin to a maximum of Rs 200, depending upon the requirement of the schoolchildren.

Teachers said quite many children enrolled in this school had been skipping classes for want of money to buy notebooks, pencils, and erasers or due to long hair. They said their parents had no money to get their children’s a haircut and hence the students avoided attending schools out of fear of getting punished by class teachers for keeping long hair.

“Kya karen bataiye, Papa paisa denge tab na baal katwayenge (Please tell how can I get my hair cut until my father gives me money),” was how a schoolboy told his class teacher irritatingly when asked about his long hair. The reply shook the school authorities.

“So, we ultimately decided to form a bank for schoolchildren so that they didn’t quit their studies midway for want of money. We are happy to inform you that we have given loan to some 200 children so far,” said school teacher Ashtbhuja Singh who is the brainchild of this idea. He added that there is a one-month time frame to return the money to the Children’s Bank but the loan money is totally interest-free.

The novel initiative has brought smiles on the faces of the children whose parents are too poor to meet both ends meet as they are mostly farm labourers or daily wage earners. “On many occasions, my parents had no money to buy reading materials for me but now this problem has been solved. If I face any such situation at home, I get a loan from the bank while my parents pay the loan when they have money sometime later,” says school student Kundan Kumar.

Similar is the story of Nidhi Kumari who studies in Class five. “Previously, I would skip classes due to shortage of reading materials but now my school bank has proved to be of great help,” Nidhi says.

What is even more encouraging is that the school bank has also been giving loans to the parents to solve problems on the domestic front. Teachers said the bank is flourishing with the cooperation of local villagers and charitable persons. “At present, our Children’s Bank has a total fund of more than Rs 10,000 and more persons are coming to lend their help. Can you believe a school cook who gets only Rs1, 500 a month too has donated Rs 500 to this bank?” schoolteacher Singh told The Statesman over the phone.

Education Department has welcomed this idea and announced to start the same in other schools to help the poor schoolchildren. The state government has been giving money to buy cycles, uniforms, and school bags but not for purchasing reading materials.