At sharp 10am, a large group of street children enter the police station at platform no 1 of Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station. A teacher and a few policemen greet them in the courtyard. The children sit on a mattress facing a blackboard, open their books and start reading English alphabets. Most of them live in the slums near the railway station. Earlier, these children worked as ragpickers or vendors. They would sell newspapers and tea in trains. Some of them were beggars.
The lives of these street children have improved drastically ever since the classes began at GRP Police Station Hazrat Nizamuddin. In a joint initiative, Delhi Police along with NGO Childhood Enhancement Through Training And Action (CHETNA) started basic education classes in November 2014 with an aim to provide free education to street children.
Until two years ago, 13-yearold Sahajana Parveen had never been to school. Her life changed when she enrolled in these classes. “Before these classes, I couldn’t even spell my name. But I have learnt a lot in the last two years. Apart from learning English and Hindi alphabets, I also like to paint, dance and sing,” said Shahjana.
There are two categories of programmes being run here. The first is Non-Formal Education under which illiterate children are taught reading and writing in English and Hindi. They are taught till nursery level. This includes basics like how to recognise animals, fruits, colours and vehicles. The second programme is called Open Basic Education Programme in which subjects are being taught till class 3, 5 and 8 level. Apart from English, Hindi, Math and Environmental Studies, children are also taught painting, dancing, clay modelling etc.
Classes run in two shifts from Monday to Saturday. The first shift starts at 10am and fiishes at 1pm and the evening shift takes place between 3pm and 5.30pm.
“The idea behind organising these classes was to improve the lives of street children who otherwise would commit street crimes. After this programme started, the crime rate has decreased considerably,” said SHO Sunil Kumar.
Cur rently, more than 30 children have enrolled in the programme. They are provided books and stationery items free of cost. Monthly tests are conducted to see their improvement.
Upon successful completion of the programme, certificates are provided by National Institute of Open Schooling, an autonomous organisation that comes under the ministry of human resource development. These certificates specify that the student has completed a course which is equivalent to the formal school format of either class 3, 5 or 8.
Volunteers from NGO Chetna teach these kids. They say that the biggest challenge they have faced till now is to build a rapport with the parents and making them understand that children need to quit working.
“Initially, parents were not willing to send their children to us. They didn’t want their kids to stop working. So we met the parents and helped them understand the importance of education in the long run,” said Rekha Sharma, education coordinator at the NGO.
Sanjay Gupta, director of the NGO said that people not associated with the organisation too come to the school to teach the children. “Volunteers keep coming to the school to teach dance and singing to them. More people should come forward to help us in this initiative,” he said.