For siblings Danish (5) and Saima (7), an hour-long evening class at a makeshift tuition centre in a slum near Samrat Chowk in Ghaziabad, has been their ‘school’ for the past one year.
It is here that Danish practices English writing four days a week while his elder sister struggles with the cursive format.
Earlier, both of them used to attend Maulana Azad Public School nearby. However, last year their mother withdrew them from the school due to financial hardships faced after her husband deserted her.
“When their father left, it became difficult for their mother to manage the fees of the private school. If not for the evening classes, these children would never have been able to cope with their friends who are still continuing school education. I hope one day they can study in a good private school,” said Yasmeen, Danish’s aunt.
Danish, Saima, and many such children are being taught by the engineering students of Academy of Business and Engineering Sciences (ABES) College in Ghaziabad.
Under the organisation ‘Help us Help a Child’, around 150 B.Tech students of ABES College have been running tuition centres in Samrat Chowk, Pratap Vihar, Maharana Vihar and Saviour apartments in Ghaziabad.
Aiming to enrol as many impoverished children in quality private schools as they can, the volunteers not only prepare them for formal education, but also seek sponsors to fund their education.
“Earlier, none of the children living in this slum used to go to school. We somehow convinced their parents and managed to find sponsors to fund their education. Meanwhile, we also prepared them to deal with formal schooling. Today, more than 60% of the children have been enrolled in either government or private schools,” said Shwet Prakash Srivastava, co-founder of Help us Help a Child, which was founded in 2012 by a group of ABES students.
Srivastava’s claims are backed by 15-year-old Komal Kumari, who scored 68% in her Class 10 exams. She credits her success to the ‘bhaiyyas’ and ‘didis’ who helped her prepare for the board exams.
“In the last few months, I was taught by the volunteers who assisted me with mathematics, science and English. If not for them I would have never scored this much,” said Kumari.
A parent, Mohammed Islam, a daily wage labourer, said he never thought his two children would be enrolled in a private school.
“A labourer can never imagine that one day his children would be able to study in a private school. Today, because of the students’ efforts, my children have been enrolled in a school in Classes 3 and 5, even though they never had any formal education before,” he said.
Although the volunteers also receive marks for their philanthropy they claim that it is their seniors’ legacy that is the driving force behind signing up.
“I joined this initiative in my first year at ABES when I visited the slums. I realised that we had taken the privileges we received during our childhood for granted. I wanted to make sure that these children receive an opportunity at least,” said Richa Dwivedi, a second year student.
“We teach the children four days a week and check their homework and their progress in school. We have to ensure that once they are enrolled in a school, they do as good as the rest of the students,” said Gurleen Singh, vice president, Help us Help a Child.
The students also run the programme ‘Sponsor a child’ to seek funds from corporate firms.
“We usually seek funds from companies under corporate social responsibility. Under our ‘Sponsor a child’ programme, we provide full details of the yearly expenses to fund a single child, which usually comes around Rs. 10-Rs. 12,000. Our college’s director and heads of various departments have also sponsored many children,” Singh added.