Also available in: தமிழ்

A School Under A Railway Bridge. A Free School for Poor Children

Posted by:

Education plays a vital role in every one's life. Basic education is the life time knowledge which is applicable in every situation of our life time may it be the highest or the lowest days. In this competitive world education has become the basic need for every individual.

India is a fast-developing nation, but with a population of over a billion, this progress is lop-sided. While one part of India is a vibrant economy, poverty is a major social problem. Faced with few options where they live, many migrate to urban areas in search of work and better living conditions; by living in slums they end up without the basic necessities and live in unhealthy conditions. About 40% of families have to satisfy their hunger with one meal a day.

Most of children from families who migrate to the cities have never seen the inside of a classroom. Of those that do go to school, drop out rate is high. Reasons may vary from having no money to pay fees, buy books, school uniform, or inability to cope due to living conditions in the slums. Free education is available, but most do not know how to access it. This is where we step in.

Have you ever thought of helping one needy person either with a book or one time food. Well, here is a real man of India who is educating the poor children under a Railway bridge. Not just one or two or three but more than 50 students learn under him.

Rajesh Kumar Sharma teaches at least 30 children every day. Most of the children come from neighboring poor villages. Sharma, a 40-year-old father of three from Aligarh, was forced to drop out of college in his third year due to financial difficulties. When he decided to start the free school, he did not want other children to face the same difficulties he had.

"Whenever I passed by this area, I would notice that children were spending all their time in the fields or playing around," he said.

A Free School for Poor Children

A group of more than 50 children gather everyday under a bridge for two hours of education. This is their informal school run by their teacher Rajesh Kumar. Their classroom is a flattened patch of dirt and rocks under the elevated rail tracks.

A Free School for Poor Children

For some of these dozens of children of poor migrant workers in the capital city, this makeshift, open-air school under the rumble of mass transit is the only school they have. Others who attend overcrowded and dismal government schools come here as well to actually learn.

A Free School for Poor Children

Country's Right To Education Act promising free, compulsory schooling to all children aged 6 to 14 was supposed to be implemented by March 31 this year, but millions of children still don't go to school, and those who do are getting only the barest of education.

A Free School for Poor Children

They sweep the dirty floor and roll out foam mats to sit on, just meters away from the bushes where people squat and defecate.

A Free School for Poor Children

The students, aged 4 to 14, study everything from basic reading and writing to the Pythagorean Theorem.
In this photo, Rajesh Kumar, the founder of a free school for slum children, checks the writings of a child at his free school.

A Free School for Poor Children

Children at the free school say that they get better education here.

A Free School for Poor Children

Rajesh Kumar's school under a bridge stands as proof of the hunger for learning among those either left out of the system or disappointed by it.

A Free School for Poor Children

Rajesh Kumar, the founder of the free school for slum children, erects an awning for a makeshift toilet at a free school for impoverished children run under a mass transit bridge in New Delhi.

A Free School for Poor Children

They were the children of construction workers and bicycle rickshaw drivers, of farm labourers and roadside vendors, the poorest of migrant workers who came to the capital because opportunities in their villages were even worse.

A Free School for Poor Children

"To change the future of these children, education is the only weapon," Kumar said. "If they go anywhere in the world, if they have education, they can achieve anything. And without education, they can do nothing."

A Free School for Poor Children

After reading this story on AP, an Indian donor gave the children socks, shoes and Angry Birds backpacks. He hired workers to level the ground under the bridge and bought the foam mats the pupils sit on.

A Free School for Poor Children

Rajesh Kumar, 42, teaches from Monday through Saturday. Before the start of class, an impoverished boy receives a new pair of socks and shoes, donated by a non-resident Indian, as others wait at the free school.

A Free School for Poor Children

Every few minutes a train passes overhead but it is largely ignored by the school and its students sitting below.
Before the start of class, a girl takes notes from a blackboard painted on a building wall at the free school.

A Free School for Poor Children

Rajesh Kumar needs more volunteer teachers because of the mass of students, but doesn't know where to find them. And his unregistered school is squatting on railroad property. "Whenever I am asked to leave this place, I will have to," he said.

He eventually persuaded local laborers and farmers to allow their children to attend his school instead of working to add to the family income. He hopes to equip these children with the tools necessary to overcome their poverty.

"They come here everyday. I manage to keep them ahead of the school curriculum," Sharma said. Sharma starts at the basics and helps prepare the children for admission to government schools. When he started the school a year ago, he had 140 students. Now 70 of them are in government schools, reported Yahoo News.

"Our teacher has told us that when poverty strikes, you should open your mind, and that can be done only through education," Abhishek, 15, a student of Sharma said. "I don't take attendance. They love coming here because there are no school-like boundaries. In fact, I want to keep it like that," Chandra said.

Sharma says his greatest achievement is changing the attitude of his students' parents. Many of them now encourage their children to study. "They understand that if children in the villages in the interiors of the country can go to schools, why not in the national capital."

In coming days if the same initiatives of providing education to the poor are taken across India then its no time that the future generation in India remains with Illiterates. What say?

Please Wait while comments are loading...
JOIN US ON SOCIAL NETWORKS

Thousands of Careerindia readers receive our evening newsletter.
Have you subscribed?