In the glare of multistories, shiny office building, shopping malls, we often do not notice the hidden slums of a rapidly growing city like Gurgaon, Pune etc. , which hosts many poor workers. Where earning for daily food is a struggle, education of their children remains their last priority. Moreover, because of seasonal migration, fear of getting kidnapped, the responsibility of smaller siblings, instant money through begging on red-lights, etc, these children never get enrolled in govt. schools.
To solve all these problems and bring education in lives of this difficult and often ignored section, few alumni from IIT Kharagpur have developed the concept of roadside schools or FootPathShalas, located close to their slums. The initiative is run under UnderPrivileged Advancement by Youth (UPAY), a registered NGO which has currently 26 centres with 1500 students primarily near Nagpur, Pune, Mouda and Delhi NCR. UPAY volunteers have been able to cultivate the interest of education among the children in the slums, by taking weekend classes using UPAY’s teaching methodology designed especially for such children. UPAY envisions to empower these children to become literate and be in a better position to take any opportunity for formal education that comes in their life, even without attending school.
"The students of UPAY never experienced the habit of going to schools. It is necessary to inculcate a sense of discipline in them, which is very much required for effective learning. We want to have a close to school like environment at our centres" said Varun Shrivastava (EE/ B Tech/2009), Founder of UPAY.
To bring schools close to them, FootPathShaalas are located close to their slums under semi-sheltered canopies. UPAY is working towards offering better infrastructure and also encouraging people with teaching skills to join them and work in the make-shift arrangements. Discussions are on for hiring skilled B.Ed. teachers, one for each centre and wish to hire them for at least 11 months to make these children learn how to read and write effectively. They would give direction, structure and continuity, along with other socially motivated volunteers who will be acting as helping hands to keep the momentum going.
"We want to have Shed on our centres to give them a sense of premise along with saving them from heat and rain and also offer them good training through skilled teachers," said Akanksha Swarnim (AR/B Arch/2012) who founded the Delhi -NCR chapter of UPAY FootPathshalas.
With regularisation of weekday teaching, UPAY looks forward to using the weekends for skill building workshops, conducting Balsabhas, parents teacher meetings and medical camps for their overall growth and well being.
"We have been observing significant changes. These days we find seekers in them, they are no more beggars in front of us. Now we want to take these children to the next level in learning ladder" added Akanksha.
UPAY has been joined by volunteers from IITs NITs and other reputed colleges. The IIT Kharagpur alumni associated with UPAY are Pratik Kamble (EE/B Tech/2009), Vinay Krishna Gupta (CY/Msc/2015), Abhinav Gupta (MT/DD/2015/MS), Harsha Rani (CH/B Tech/2016), Sakshi Agarwal (BT/B Tech/2014).
"We are not just making them literate but also making them a good human being by teaching them the importance of truth, dignity and moral values like respecting and helping others etc. Gradually, we are working towards not letting so many children go untouched of education, who will otherwise roam around purposelessly, beg on signals or get indulged in petty crimes. We are donating our time to educate them and to empower them to lead a dignified life. We teach them the importance of earning something" opined Varun.