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Inspiring Indians

On the banks of Yamuna, a shopkeeper plays teacher’s role at a roadside school

By Team Billion Beats | FEB 2016

A torn carpet to sit on, a thin sweater to wear on, a Metro flyover for a roof, a patch of wall painted black for a blackboard and a shopkeeper as a teacher. This is the everyday reality of around 250 children from villages near Shakarpur.

Six days a week, Rajesh Kumar Sharma takes out two hours to teach children at the free roadside school he opened for children who are deprived of education. He starts with the basics and goes on to prepare children for admission to government schools.

The school functions in two batches from 9 am to 2 pm. Children are taught to read, write, and learn the basics of English, Hindi, Science, Mathematics, History, and Geography. What started with five excited students, has now increased to over 250, of which 70 are in government schools.

Although he started alone, now he is supported by two permanent teachers and a few volunteers from various colleges across Delhi.

"Anybody who feels to give this short life a meaning can come here and teach these children. It would give them great satisfaction," he said.

His endeavour began when once, while having a morning walk along the Yamuna river, he saw some children weeding and picking flowers.

“I asked them which school they went to and they looked at me with no answer. I never realised that not every child has access to a school,” said Rajesh who was himself forced to drop out of college in his final year due to financial constraints.

“So, I decided to offer free education to the children of the daily wagers and farmers. It was not easy convincing the children’s parents to allow them attend a school. Since they are poor and mostly illiterate, they often see no need for their children to be educated and prefer to put them to work,” he said and added that his greatest achievement is changing the attitude of his students' parents.

“Many of them now allow and motivate their children to study,” he said. According to him, people should distribute education among the poor rather than eatables, clothes or money because the latter gives temporary happiness while the former has the power to change destiny.

Thinking about the future of his school, he says he takes each day as it comes since he is operating on the metro property and could be told to stop at any time. Until then, the school is a beacon of hope for marginalised and underprivileged children and in his words, ‘To change the future of these children, education is the only weapon. Anywhere in the world they go, it is only education which could enlighten their dark lives.’

After every 3 minutes, a speeding Metro kicks up a din, but the children seated below the elevated tracks carry on with their studies, unaffected.

In their eyes one can see a certain spark... a spark to change their future. Their faces have a unique glare of determination and satisfaction that they'll write a bright story in dark backgrounds. Rajesh Sharma can be contacted at: rajeshkumarsharmametro@gmail.com.

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