This teachers day we offer you a peek into the lives of few men and women in the capital city who have taken up the cudgels to educate those who don’t have the means.
A man from Jamia Nagar who helps school dropouts get back on track or a 33-year-old woman who is making sure the kids of Janata Colony near Pragati Maidan know how to read and write. A 17-year-old motor mechanic apprentice by day and tutor by night, an octogenarian teacher or an East Delhi grocer, who has been educating little ones under a Metro bridge for over a decade.
Mohammad Nadeem Akhtar, Shikhar Girls School, Batla House
Mohammad Nadeem Akhtar has been running the Shikhar Girls School at Batla House in Jamia Nagar since 2004. Primarily catering to dropouts, the school, which runs on funding from Essel Social Welfare Foundation, charges only Rs 900 as registration fee from those who can afford it. A master’s degree holder in Sociology from Jamia Millia Islamia, Akhtar started this school after seeing the abysmal situation of girls’ education in rural and urban India. There are 354 students at present in the school in classes 9th to 12th, who are prepared to sit for board exams as private candidates. Till date, around 6,000 students have passed out from the school.
Neetu Singh, Pragati Maidan
Right next to Pragati Maidan Gate number 1, adjacent to the Shiv Hanuman Panchvati Mandir, an impromptu school comes up on the sidewalk six days a week. Neetu Singh gathers 30-odd kids of the neighbouring slums from 3.30pm to 5 pm in the afternoon and tries to teach them “to be able to read and write at least”. With zero financial aid, no source of income and interference from local goons, the 33-year-old is struggling on a daily basis. “These kids are from very poor families. How can I ask them for money? I take Re 1 daily from those who can afford it. To try and sustain this initiative,” she says.
Vimla Kaul, Guldasta, Sarita Vihar
Even at 82, Vimla Kaul beams every time she hears a chorus of “good morning ma’am” at Guldasta, a school for under-privileged children located in a narrow lane at Dairy Farm of Sarita Vihar. “Most of them have never been to schools. A few of them go to government schools, where they do not get quality education. Some of them are studying in Class X, but cannot read or write properly. We are here to give them the education and training they need,” Kaul says. From 9.30-11 am, it is computer classes, while from 11-1.30 pm, it is school time for little ones in KG to Class III. “People with jobs or business do not have time to do social work. But what about retired people? They have lot of free time that can be used in doing something that benefits under-privileged people around them. That is what I am doing,” she says.
Akshay Verma, Gyan Sandhya School, Pitampura
At 9 in the morning, 17-year-old Akshay Verma reaches his workplace – a motor mechanic’s garage where he is on unpaid training. At 5, however, he reaches Gyan Sandhya School in Pitampura to teach Science and Mathematics. His love for the subjects and teaching, is what propels this recent Class XII graduate to take classes even after a gruelling day. But there is another compelling reason. “I want to help my mother out. She has been working as a maid and raising me alone ever since my father passed away when I was a kid. Rs 100 per day is a lot of money,” Akshay says.
Rajesh Gupta, Free School: Under the Bridge, Yamuna Bank
With four teachers and a few university student volunteers, Rajesh Gupta arrives every morning at “Free School: Under the Bridge” and teaches hundreds of poor children who live in the shanties and hutments dotting the banks of the Yamuna. Underneath the Yamuna Bank metro bridge in east Delhi’s Shakarpur area, over 270 students, from class 1 to 11 attend lessons. However, there are daily hurdles for this 46-year-old grocer. “For food and water, there is a daily expenditure of over Rs 1,000. The teachers are working without any salary. It gets difficult at home as family finances get disturbed. But they (his family members) understand. Hopefully some aid will come and help my cause,” says Gupta, a Mayur Vihar Phase III resident.