This Shopkeeper-Turned-Teacher Runs a Unique Free School for Delhi Slum Children

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This Shopkeeper-Turned-Teacher Runs a
Unique Free School for Delhi Slum Children

by A Mondal, 8 November 2016

  • Right under a railway flyover where in every 3 minutes a speeding train kicks up a rumble, a group of children sit in rows getting their daily lessons from their ‘masterji’. Their ‘classroom’ has no walls, nor any blackboard. The boundary walls of neighbourhood buildings, painted in black, serve that purpose. This is a school in Delhi that Rajesh Kumar Sharma has been running for the past six years.

  • A college dropout who also runs a general store, Sharma was forced to leave his undergraduate studies midway owing to financial constraints in his family. It was his own failure to continue his education that inspired him to educate the underprivileged children. Sharing his story with Hindustan Times, Sharma says, “Back in the 1989, I had to drop out after the first year of college in Aligarh due to worsening financial condition of my family. When I passed out of class 12 in the science stream, I too dreamt of becoming an engineer. That unfulfilled dream has turned into this school.”

  • One day while walking past the ongoing metro railway work in 2007, he saw some children playing in dirt. That was the sight that changed his course of life forever. Instead of turning a blind eye, he went ahead and spoke to the parents of the children, only to realise they were poor farmers and daily wagers who couldn’t afford to send their children to schools, and even if they did, there were no schools around where they could send their children to.

  • That’s when Sharma decided to start his own school. While he had no formal training, he firmly believed that education is the only force that can pull these children out from the darkness of poverty. His conviction and steely

  • Today, Sharma’s school is attended by around 200 kids from nearby slums. The classes are held from 9 am to 2 pm in two batches, during which the children are taught basics of English, Hindi, science, mathematics, history, and geography.

  • For Sharma, the school is not something he does out of charity. He genuinely feels that without formal education, these kids won’t stand a chance to secure their future. He knows that his school has no government approval and does not follow any fixed syllabus, and this is why he always encourages the children who attend his classes to join some nearby government school. Not only that, Sharma also took initiatives to prepare for their admission into government schools.

  • “I approached the principal of a municipal school at Shakarpur and invited him to visit our school. He visited us the next day and was surprised to see so many children attending my classes. He later made arrangements to admit 60 of our students at his school,”

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