Usha, 8, a scrap-picker by profession refuses to return back to the business since she has enrolled herself in a day classroom along with her community children.
Karma, 6, too has stopped begging on the roadside at Gandhinagar and Trikuta Nagar after joining the new ‘institution’ that has come up in his mohalla at Maratha Colony adjacent to Railway station at Trikuta Nagar.
Nearly 250 children aged between 5-10 years belonging to inter- state migrant workmen parents are getting preliminary education in English, Mathematics and Hindi in an open space marked by bamboo sticks and ropes shaped as a classroom, an attempt volunteered by one Kanchan Sharma, a senior teacher in Boys Government School Gandhinagar.
“The transformation struck me five years ago when three of such children who were admitted in my school were disowned by the other children for them being shabbily dressed and soiled with filth,” said Kanchan Sharma who later pledged to come into the support of these children through her own means, whatsoever.
“I mobilized the parents of these children of Maratha Colony for a classroom session every day in their mohalla wherein I started giving them some preliminary education. In the process I tried to reach many government institutions and NGOs for help which still is eluding these kids who want to be part of the mainstream, but to no avail”.
Kanchan Sharma who is a teacher herself has employed two needy persons, one male and another female on Rs 1000 salary each out of her own earnings who impart education to these children.
“She is like a godfather to these children who earlier used to run half naked on the roads begging or picking scrap to add into the earnings of their parents. Now they have community classroom where they are now feeling cozy with educative healings that may help them become respectful in the society,” said Vishal Umey,45, the community head looking after the Colony affairs.
“I won’t go for begging or scrap collecting if my father even insists. I am liking studying in the class room and can speak and write some of the words also,” chuckled Shilpa, 9 who expects herself to become teacher after getting good education.
Pradhan Hathagodey, 37, a father of one of the sibling now getting education in the open air school however said that since his child studying would deprive him of some of the daily earnings, yet he is happy to see her grow educated instead of a beggar.
Vishal and Anuradha, the two tutors engaged by Kanchan Sharma feel it privileged to be among the children of lesser god whom they are trying to make the gentlemen of the society.
“No government aid or any benefit is extended to us, yet we pay Rs 10,000 monthly electricity bills. Since our job ranges from boot polishing to scarp collecting, we don’t want our children into the same profession,” said Shivaji Dasrath Hathgodey.
Nearly 600 families dwell in small bamboo and mud hutments in the colony, all of those who have come to Jammu from Nagpur, Maharashtra in search of jobs and better living.