At the first glance, it gives you an impression of an ordinary village hut. But as you get closer, you’ll notice small blackboards hanging inside with some 30-odd children sitting with their notebooks and pencils. And just next to it is a classroom for women. There is no separate classroom for women, classes are held at different timings in same hut.
Located in the slums of Hambran road in diary complex area, the school was started two years ago by advocate Hari Om Jindal (50), who is busy changing lives of the slum children living in the area.
Once engaged in picking rags and making a livelihood out of it, these children now boasts of having a ‘school’.
The change that Jindal has managed to bring into their lives can be gauged by the fact that 10-year-old Kajal can now write English alphabets and do basic arithmetic. Similarly, Rahul (9) and Ajay (8) have bid adieu to rag picking and have taken to books. Later in the day, they help their parents, who are mostly daily wagers, in home chores.
This Independence Day, Jindal’s dedication and contribution will be honoured by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at Mohali on Monday.
Initially started with just 12 children, the school now has a strength of 30. “These kids who had turned into professional rag pickers have left it. They now help their parents in making cow dung cakes but they no more pick rags,” said Jindal.
Recently, the school also started a one hour class for poor women in area but it usually witnesses a low attendance. “Due to their family commitments, there were only five women initially which goes up to 8 or 10 some days. But even if there is one woman, the class is conducted.”
When Jindal realised that he cannot conduct classes everyday personally due to his professional commitments, he hired two teachers whom he pays from his own pocket.
“I realised that I mostly remain out of city due to my work. But I did not want their routine to be disrupted. It was with great difficulty that we had convinced parents of these children to send them to school. Since the entire slum is surrounded by garbage dumps, there is a lot of stray cattle. Parents said that if kids move out, they might be attacked. Already few children have been attacked here. Thus, we had no option but to come up with a thatch hut which is now our school,” said Jindal.
It wasn’t easy getting teachers and convince them to come to this area surrounded by filth. “Then I met Rohit, a Class 9 student and son of a tea stall owner. He agreed to teach in return for Rs 100 per student. Another teacher Saroj, agreed to teach for Rs 8,000 per month,” he said.
What is special about Jindal’s school is it goes beyond teaching the usual stuff. “Apart from alphabets and maths we are informing children about the Indian Constitution, their rights, public property, cleanliness of public areas, public money and taxes. They now feel confident to face the world,” said Jindal.
He is also writing a book on children’s rights which is in process. “If a child is born in a poor family it is simply not his fault. He too aspires to fly. I just want to give them wings,” said Jindal.
Jindal had also taken up matter of educating these slum children with government through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) and Right to Education Act (RTE) which says education is basic right of each child. He proposed that government should send a resource person, as mandated in RTE, to this slum as the children can’t travel to school. “I never got a positive response and then I started on my own,” he said.
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