From rag picking to learning alphabets

Practising the English alphabets repeatedly as they await turn to get their homework evaluated, Luv and Kush have come a long way since they first began collecting trash at the farmers’ protest site at Ghazipur border.

First drawn to the area by the prospect of a steady daily income at their job, they are now among 90-odd children who regularly throng a small, makeshift pathshala, which had initially sought to impart primary level education mainly to agitating farmers’ children, enjoying their first tryst with literacy.

“The children start coming around 9 a.m. even though the first class is supposed to begin at 11 a.m. For most of them, a majority of them rag pickers and slum dwellers, this is the first time they are attending any academic programme,” said Dev Kumar, who administers the programme on behalf of the Mata Savitri Bai Phule Mahasabha.

“We have been here since January 22 and began the initiative for farmers’ children accompanying them to this protest with just 12 children. But most of them chose to leave after what happened on Republic Day,” added Mr. Kumar from Dankaur in Uttar Pradesh, a civil services aspirant who has left his studies midway to be part of the initiative.

Two shifts

Run by a floating team of close to a dozen, the school functions in two shifts from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Taught English and basic mathematics among other subjects in addition to being provided stationery, the children are also treated to chocolates and biscuits and instructed in cleanliness and social etiquette.

According to Mr. Kumar, all the children had been registered and efforts would be made to ensure that their education continued well after the tent at the protest site was wrapped up for one reason or another. “The sweets were actually a big draw for the students, initially. Once they began trusting us we could move forward with trying to instil discipline and a sense of cleanliness in them,” he said.

“We will ensure that their education continues even after the protest is wrapped up. We have their details on the basis of which we will contact local schools and get them admitted there under the EWS category,” he said.

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