He is a social worker who helps handicapped children but a stray incident made him realise the problems faced by children of migrant labourers and he found his calling.
For Naresh Kumar, the decision to educate migrant children was sudden.
In the winter of 2005, Naresh was walking around a residential area of Haryana Urban Development Authority in Rohtak, when he saw a man beating a migrant child.
When Naresh intervened and questioned the man, he was told that the child had allegedly stolen a tap from his house that was under construction.
Later, the man took the child to the police station and insisted them to register a case against the child’s parents.
Kumar rues, “All this shocked me and to my surprise, the parents of the minor child were pleading innocence before the police, but the cops did not pay any heed and were adamant on branding the child as a thief without any investigations.”
However, with the intervention of the local social activists, the migrant child was left by the police. But, the incident jolted Kumar as he realised how helpless and clueless these migrants were about their rights.
It was at that moment, Naresh pledged to help out these children and empower them by educating them so that they could know their rights and responsibilities as a citizen of India.
This is how Gandhi School — an institution where migrant children study under streetlights, every evening at Housing Board Complex, Sector 4, — stands apart.
Naresh has single-handedly dealt with all the issues fighting a lone battle to educate these children.
Around 40 children aged 4 - 14 years attend the classes, as a majority of them cannot afford to attend regular school.
Most of these children help their parents at construction sites or pursue menial work to help them earn a living.
Sharing his experience, Naresh sayss, “In the beginning, when I pursued migrant families who com from Uttar Pardesh, Bihar and Madhya Pardesh, to put their kids in school, they agreed but were reluctant to let them study during day time. It was then he decided to start evening classes. The performance of these children inspired their illiterate parents and some of them even agreed to put their children in government schools to learn and pursue a better living.”
Talking about the decision to begin evening classes, he says, “Most of these children have no one at home to make them do their homework or motivate them to understand the importance of education, so they come here and learn these things at Gandhi School, a name coined by the students themselves.”
Seema (12), a young girl, who has been attending this school for the past five years says, “After my parents died, there was nobody to support me in continuing my education. One of my relative came in touch with Naresh sir and decided to put me here to attend classes with other migrant children.”
She adds, “I was inspired by the story of Malala Yousafazai from Taliban, who bravely faced adversity to pursue her dream of education. This is how I decided to rechristen myself to Malala after hearing this story.”
Azarhuddin (14), whose parents hail from Uttar Pardesh, has also been attending the school for a long time. He says, “We learn everything from general knowledge to subjective knowledge, but most importantly, we are taught how to sail through tough times.”