Keeping Education on Track
Manmohan Singh works at a gurudwara in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, and spends a large part of his earnings in educating under-privileged children. His one such ‘classroom’ is under an open sky, next to the railway track where three college students teach children of daily wage labourers. All the expenses are borne by Manmohan and his wife Rajvinder Kaur.
Manish Dubey 9 Jan 2023 1:59 PM GMT
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh
It is an unusual location for a black board that stands next to the railway tracks under the open sky. Unconcerned by the rattle of the passing train, a young girl is writing something on the black board, watched closely by 30 to 40 pairs of bright inquisitive eyes.
Anjani Jaiswal, Anju Dubey, Saloni Yadav and Anjali Paswan take turns to teach at this novel classroom at Dadanagar Kachchi Basti in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, that lies in crowded squalor on either side of the railway crossing.
“Three of us are studying in college. In the evenings, for an hour between 4 and 5 pm, we teach these children. And, we enjoy it,” smiled 26-year-old Anjani who is in her final year of BA (Bachelor of Arts).
Ranging between six and 10 years of age, these children of poor daily wage labourers live in the makeshift structures that they call home, on either side of the railway track. Their parents can’t afford to pay school fees.
Anjani, Saloni and Anjali (who is in her intermediate), teach the children, while Anju teaches the older girls and women in the slums, tailoring and sewing.
The children who are learning numbers, suddenly stop and swivel around. They have heard the sound of a scooter headed in their direction. It is Manmohan Singh bringing with him milk, biscuits and fruits for them!
Manmohan Singh and his wife Rajvinder Kaur are the driving force behind this education project.
“For both myself and my wife, providing education and food to the uneducated and the hungry children comes way above spending money at religious places. No one cares what happens to these children. If we can make a difference in their lives, we are blessed,” 50-year-old Manmohan told Gaon Connection.
Manmohan Singh works at a Gurudwara in Gumti 5, in Kanpur. And, a part of whatever money he earns there, he spends it on this mission. Along with healthy snacks for the children, Manmohan and Rajvinder Kaur, his 46-year-old wife, also provide them with books, notebooks, pencils and papers.
“The children get something nutritious to eat while they are with us. And, they love the stationery we give them. We hope these will keep them coming back to the classroom,” Manmohan smiled.
His wife Rajvinder also teaches the children. “We have been doing this for the past six years, and we have five such classrooms like the Dadanagar one across Kanpur, most of them around the railway tracks,” she told Gaon Connection. They are in Sanjay Nagar, Govind Nagar Basti, Railwayline Basti and CTI Kachchi Basti. They enlist the support of young people there to teach the younger children, Rajvinder explained.
“In all, we have about 480 children who are studying in these five areas. And our expenses per month, including the college fee for the teachers comes to about Rs 24,000 a month,” Manmohan said.
Training slum women
“Manmohan ji and Rajvinderji are our mentors. We wouldn’t be teaching here without their encouragement and support,” Saloni, who is in her first year of BA, told Gaon Connection. “Along with the children, they pay our college fees and any other expenses we may incur,” the 22-year-old said. The four girls themselves come from families that are not too well off.
Rajvinder encourages the young women in the slum areas to take up tailoring or beautician training so that they can stand on their own feet and be economically independent.
Anju Dube, one of the four girls mentored by Rajvinder and Manmohan has the responsibility of training other women in tailoring and beauty treatments. “I am learning both tailoring and doing a beautician course and I teach the same to the others. Manmohan Sir and Rajvinder Ma’am take care of my college fee and any other requirement I may have. They are my guardians,” the 28-year-old said.
Educating under-privileged children
Standing at a distance and watching the children is Rubi Gupta. Her sons, aged four and seven, are learning to read and write here. “My husband is handicapped and cannot go to work and I somehow manage to eke out a living working wherever I can,” she told Gaon Connection.
She points to a hut nearby, where she and her family live. “I don’t have the means to send my children to school. But, here they are getting an education free of cost, Plus they get something healthy and nutritious to eat,” she said.
Rani, who is from the same colony as Rubi, sends her four-year-old daughter here, too. “My daughter gets everything she needs here, nourishment of mind and body and so much love,” she told Gaon Connection.
There is another priceless outcome of the children coming to study by these rail tracks, said Rubi. “My son now comes home and is making an effort to teach me how to read and write,” she smiled with quiet pride.