When a former official of the Union ministry of human resource development (HRD), GK Bhatnagar, visited a temple in Sector 50 in 2009, several children approached him begging for alms. When he asked them why they did not attend school, one of them said, “Uncle, please open a school and provide free education for us. Our parents do not have money to send us to school.”
Bhatnagar, 64, went on to start an open school in South City 2 for underprivileged children living nearby, the same year. Eight years on, retired government officials, teachers, and students are teaching 35 underprivileged children in the open school. Children in the age group of six to 16 years are taught subjects from CBSE text books. Once they get basic education, the are encouraged to seek admission in schools through the economically weaker section category.
“That day (in 2009), I decided to open a school for these children and since then, there has been no looking back. The residents of the area have joined voluntarily and students join the initiative during free time and vacations,” Bhatnagar, a retired principal consultant to the Union ministry of HRD (women empowerment project).
Ajay Kumar Goel, an engineer and a resident of South Ciry 2, said, “Apart from teaching them subjects, we also teach them about ‘good touch and bad touch’. We organise special awareness programs for them where we call experts from different fields..”
One of the student volunteers is Samaira Gulati,11, a class 7 student of DAV Centenary Public School, Delhi. She visits her grandparents in A1 block, South City 2, frequently. On one such trip, she noticed Bhatnagar with the children in the park and she was curious what they were doing.
Gulati now teaches them spoken English, math, science and grammar.
“When I saw these children, I decided that I have to teach them. I have also decided to motivate my friends to take up this initiative,” she said. Since November 2015, she has been spending two hours every weekend teaching children in the age group of 6 to 12 years.
Shivam Raj, an 8-year-old student of class 3, said, “I want to study and become an Army officer. I want to serve the nation and want my mother to rest and be with me. I feel sad when I see her working at other houses...”