When a police station turns into a classroom
Colourful slippers of all sizes were lined outside room no. 22 of the Mandir Marg police station where children from nearby informal settlements had gathered to learn English, Mathematics, and more — an upgrade from their previous makeshift classroom on a pavement on Kali Bari Marg in New Delhi.
Last week, Delhi Police and Sarvahitey, an NGO, came together to provide underprivileged children a safe space for their learning and education. “We had to call off our classes due to rain or cold when we were teaching on the road,” Mehak Rohilla, a volunteer with Sarvahitey, said.
“When police officials came to know of the classes held under our Vidya Vistar project, they offered to help us by providing a room in the Mandir Marg police station.”
Held between Thursday and Sunday for three hours each day, these classes function like coaching centres for students who find it difficult to cope up with the studies in government schools or do not go to schools.
On Saturday, four NGO volunteers were surrounded by different groups of children inside room 22, which was with buzzing with activity. While level four students were busy solving problems of area and perimeter, level two students repeated after an instructor during their English lessons, how “Rama likes to read and write”.
A few students were busy eyeing the educational toys and puzzles provided by the police.
“Some elder children do not even know how to write alphabets. So, we divide students on the basis of their learning into four groups and teach,” Rohilla said, as Vishal (4) and Lakshmi (6) compete to finish writing A-Z on the blackboard.
“Earlier, we used to face problems since kids playing on the streets used to distract us. But this classroom is good. I like the slide,” Priya Gautam (10) — a class IV student in NP Girls Senior Secondary School, Gole Market — said with a smile. Asked if she knew what a police station is, she said it was a place “for people who fight.” “We are not scared here because police is here to keep us safe,” she said.
“Somebody had complained about encroachment, showing us pictures of their makeshift class. When we spoke to the NGO about it, they clarified and then we offered to provide a place,” Vikramjit Singh, SHO Mandir Marg Police Station said, adding the funds were procured from the administrative branch of the district. “We plan to expand this further and include libraries and other things.”