‘Teaching is the greatest act of optimism’, states a quote by educationist Colleen Wilcox. Validating the sentiments of this dictum are the inmates of the Arthur Road jail. In a bid to seek happiness, those inmates who have pursued education are teaching those who were not as lucky.
Around 12 such inmates, including Saji Mohan, the IPS officer who was booked under the NDPS Act, and Rajesh Kataria, the Haryana-based policeman who is a co-accused in the same case, are actively participating in teaching their fellow inmates. While some teach English, others explain the nuances of Hindi and Marathi. There are some who also train a batch of Muslim inmates in Urdu and Arabic so that they can read the Quran.
While imparting knowledge is pleasing the teachers, the students too are ecstatic about learning new languages. “I could read and write English but never understood it. But, by attending classes daily, I am now understanding the language,” said an inmate.
The exercise is also keeping them occupied. “We want the inmates to attain fluency in languages so that they can find a decent job and stay away from crime,” Surendra Kumar, inspector general (prisons), said.
A computer engineer also gives tips on basic computer skills. Parminder Singh, booked under the NDPS Act, said, “My wife is educated but I am not. After I landed in jail, my wife would write letters in English. I had to ask someone to read it out to me. But now, I can read and reply to them.”
The prison authorities are also motivating the inmates to take exams. Those who have done their schooling till Class 7 are being motivated to take the SSC exams. And those who have completed their HSC are encouraged to complete graduation.
Saurabh Sharma, a singer who has been booked for rape, is the teacher to over 12 students. “Some inmates can’t write a letter to tell their mothers that they miss her. I want to make sure that they learn to read and write,” Sharma said.