Orange Vendor Becomes an Educational Icon

From manning a fruit stall to winning a national award.

Dec 1, 2021
Orange Vendor Becomes an Educational Icon | From manning a fruit stall to winning a national award.

Harekala Hajabba started out as a humble orange vendor in India and quickly became an educational hero, using his earnings to build a school in his home village in order to provide education to the children living there. His tireless dedication and success in providing education to his community earned him a Padma Shri award, the fourth-highest civilian award in India.

The man behind the oranges
Hajabba, now in his 60s, grew up in a village named Newpadapu. Newpadapu is located in the city of Mangaluru, Karnataka, India. Growing up, he did not have access to education and lived in poverty. While working as an orange vendor, an English-speaking customer asked him for the price of his oranges. Hajabba was unable to understand what the customer was saying because he didn’t know any English. Wishing that he had enjoyed  the opportunity to receive an education, he decided at that moment to dedicate his earnings to building a school for the children growing up in his home village. 

How the school came to be
According to India Today, Hajabba used his earnings of 150 Indian rupees per day (around $2) to build the school. In total, The Hindu reports that he contributed some 5,000 rupees raised from selling his oranges, with the rest of the funding coming from the government and other donors that he had reached out to for help. 

According to The Print, after the first school was built in 2001 and in response to the abundance of students, a second school was built close by in 2012. The school was built from Hajabba’s earnings along with the continued assistance from the government and donors. 

The tributes keep pouring in
The Padma Shri award is only one out of the many awards that Hajabba has earned over his years dedicated to education. Upon entrance, The Print describes Hajabba’s house as warm and inviting with his preparation of tender coconuts for each guest. They also describe a room next door to his house filled with his large collection of awards, plaques, and other tributes that he has received over the years.

The recognition that Hajabba receives comes in other forms as well. He is known as Akshara Santa, or Saint of Letters, to show appreciation for all that he has done for education. 

Today, the school that Hajabba built continues to thrive, and he remains highly praised in his community. The Hindu reported that students from the school watched the ceremony virtually and cheered him on as he received his Padma Shri award. 

In the future, Hajabba hopes to expand his efforts even further. The Print quoted Hajabba stating that his next endeavor will be trying to build a pre-university college. 

Meet the Young School Pupils Realizing Their Dreams
This App Makes it Easy For People to Learn Sign Language
Introducing the World’s First Ever 3D Printed School

Emma is a freelance writer focusing on topics that will positively impact people's lives. She loves history, including the cultural artifacts that reflect it. With an undergraduate degree in English, she is currently working on her Master of Arts in Archaeology.