The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
India's roadside teacher educates street children in New Delhi Open in fullscreen

Haziq Qadri

India's roadside teacher educates street children in New Delhi

Many parents have complained New Delhi's high pollution is affecting their children's education [AFP]

Date of publication: 27 November, 2017

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
A retired telecomms worker gives lessons to around 50 impoverished children by the side of the road in New Delhi, without any help from the government or NGOs.
After retiring from his job, 67-year-old Shyam Bihari Prasad started an unconventional school for New Delhi's poor children: he started teaching students by the side of a road.

For a passerby, the students might look like beggars, all huddled together, but Prasad's selfless initative has turned this pavement into a hope for these children from Delhi's poorest families.

A former employee of a telecommunications company in Delhi, Prasad thought of looking after his granddaughter and wife after his retirement. However, given the gaps in India's education system, he decided to set up a school for those children who could not afford to go to school.

"I decided to spend the rest of my life to educate the poor children. It was painful to see them begging on streets while others would carry school bags," Prasad said.

For Prasad, the immediate challenge was to find a space for the school. But in an expensive city like New Delhi, Prasad could not afford to build one.

"This city is very costly that I could not find a space for these children. Also, no one was ready to rent space for these poor children. So I decided to teach them on footpath," Prasad added.

Currently, Prasad teaches English, Hindi, mathematics and social science to almost 50 poor students, six days a week on a footpath in the south of India's capital.

"I chose this place because it is relatively less noisy," Prasad said, "and I don't have to pay anyone for this space."

Since these children used to beg and wander around, Prasad had a tough time teaching them discipline and imparting the basic manners a student requires in a classroom.

Initially the school had no mats and the students had to stand while a patient Prasad gave lessons. However, as locals and passerby started to notice the humble school, they donated money for mats, books and other accessories.

I do my best to give the best education to these poor students so their future is bright and they do not have to go back to where they came from

"I do my best to give the best education to these poor students so their future is bright and they do not have to go back to where they came from," Prasad said.

"The rest of the school's affairs are looked after by the donors."

Prasad said that no NGO or government office donates or helps the school, adding that better facilities should be given so the students have a better chance at life.

Payal, 9-year-old, used to beg with her mother until two years ago when Prasad saw her and motivated her to attend the roadside school. In two years, Prasad said, Payal has grown into a good student who can do well in the future, if provided with basic facilities.

"I want to become a doctor when I grow up. I like it here," Payal said.

Another student, Rakesh, 9, said he always wanted to go to a school but his father, being poor, could not afford it. 

"I was a rag picker earlier but then Uncle Ji (Prasad) asked my sister to send me to school. I like it here and Uncle Ji also teaches well," Rakesh said.

The children also get their lunch for free which Prasad ensures to arrange every day.

Though the school is a success in its own right, there are occasions when these students feel reluctant to attend classes.

"During the days when it is extremely hot or cold, very few turn up. They are yet to enter into their teens and it is hard for them to tolerate such extreme weather," Prasad said.

On rainy days, Prasad teaches these students in a Temple that is few metres away from the footpath.

There have been occasions when Prasad had to spend money from his own savings or pension to keep the school going.

"Sometimes when the books, notebooks or lunch for the children is not donated by others, I spend my own money to buy them. It is important that their education is not hampered and they remain motivated to attend school every day," he added.

As such, Prasad hopes some NGOs should come forward to improve the quality of the education these poor students receive.

"If an NGO or the government comes forward, we can collectively make this school better, with proper classrooms and more teachers," Prasad said.

"That will attract more poor children to attend school and fill the gaps in our educational system."

Hiziq Qadri is a Multimedia Journalist at Barcroft Media. Bylines in Guardian, Mail Online, Daily Mirror, Telegraph, BBC India & The Caravan.

You can follow him on Twitter - @haziq_qadri

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More