Shiksha Rickshaw Abhiyan Is Spreading Smiles And Education Among Kids of Construction Workers
The Shiksha Rickshaw Abhiyan begun by two young engineers in NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh, as part of their non-profit Bhavishya, has propelled children of construction labourers towards learning.
Laraib Fatima Warsi 15 July 2023 2:03 PM GMT
At 10 am every morning, there is a buzz in several sectors of NOIDA in Uttar Pradesh. Groups of children gather at various points and an autorickshaw trundles by and picks them up. Along with them are volunteers and teachers who move around between 10 am and 12 noon, then find an open space somewhere, in a park or under a tree, where they set up a temporary classroom for the 46 or so children in the age group six-12 years. This is the Shiksha Rickshaw Abhiyan on the move.
The Shiksha Rickshaw Abhiyan is the brainchild of Rahul Pandey and Vikash Jha who may not be qualified teachers but are determined to teach and transform the lives of children of construction labourers. The Shiksha Rickshaw was an initiative of their non-profit, Bhavishya, that they set up in 2013.
Jha, a software engineer, is from Madhubani, Bihar and works in a private company in Noida. Rahul Pandey is from Uttarakhand. He is a mechanical engineer and is currently working as a government official in the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh.
In 2013, Jha and Pandey, 33 and 31 years old respectively, saw a few children begging near the Sai Mandir in Noida, Sector 61. Classmates since college, the engineering graduates thought of teaching these kids (who are rag pickers when they are not begging), and bring change into their lives. And, Bhavishya their non-profit was born in 2013.
Bhavishya has become the lifeline of more than two thousand children, and now, after 10 years, the non-profit has five teaching centres in various sectors in Noida, and in West Bengal and Bihar. It began with distributing books and stationery to the children, in the hope they would get motivated to study.
“It was not an easy task to motivate the slum kids to start studying. We visited them on weekends and gave them colourful pens and books to encourage them to study, “ Jha told Gaon Connection. Initially, the response was poor but slowly the number of children increased, he recalled
Education on the move
More recently, in March 2023, Jha and Pandey were in Noida sector 118, when they came across children playing at a construction site. They were the children of the daily wage labourers who were working there. Jha and Pandey learnt that the children did not go to school. They were not even familiar with the concept of a school.
A rickshaw was co-opted to help out and the Shiksha Rickshaw Abhiyan was launched.
The new rickshaw was bought and customised into a makeshift moving school. And a call was put out for volunteers. There are 120 volunteers. Some of them are college students, some are teachers, and some senior citizens. Bhavishya pays most of them a stipend of Rs. 3000 a month. Some of the senior citizens teach gratis.
“We have hired a driver for the rickshaw and paid him Rs. 8000 per month. We have stationed volunteers every 1 to 2 km to meet, motivate and teach children from their respective localities to step forward,” Pandey said.
Jha and Pandey have taken it upon themselves to get some of the children at least admitted into nearby government schools.
“Since 2016 we have enrolled more than 50 students in government schools and feel that with our collective and consistent efforts we could increase the number, ” Jha said
Keshri Mal Jain, 65, is a retired electronics engineer lives in Noida and has been associated with Bhavishya since 2018. Jain teaches Mathematics to the children. “The idea is to give free education and empower the underprivileged, and provide them with opportunities to grow and make something of themselves,” Jain said
The non-profit has expanded and in 2019 began a centre in Madhubani. In 2022 a branch opened up in Siliguri in West Bengal, and Buxar and Rohtas, also in Bihar. Every centre has three teachers respectively and 100 students. The number of volunteers who come to teach are around 50.
“We have also set up a small space in Dhanurpura Turkheda village in Moradabad, as Pandey has been posted there for his government job.” Jha said
A Book In Every Bag
‘Har Baste Mein Kitab’ is an initiative of Bhavishya that urges people to donate school bags and stationery besides books to encourage the children to read. Various organisations have donated books to the initiative.
“We wanted to see the children with books in their hands, not construction tools,” Pandey said.
Empowering Through Education
Another initiative of the non-profit is called ‘Sponsor a kid’.
“A child’s education is sponsored through donation. We coach the students, bring them up to grade and with the help of the donations, get them admitted to government schools.” Jha said
Some of the parents of the children are also donating what they can after seeing how much the initiative was helping.
It is the aim and dream of both Jha and Pandey to open up at least one centre in every district across the country so that they can help the underprivileged kids and encourage their parents to send their kids to school and not waste their future.
“This will eventually give new employment opportunities to these kids who have trusted us and have dreams to pursue. It will also help other kids from underprivileged backgrounds to come up and be a part of Bhavishya and create their own journey of learning new things with us.” Jha said.