Kanpur: Only Re 1 charged as admission fee in this school for kids from ragpicking families
The students from economically weaker families not only get free education but also learn to make products such as keychains out of discarded materials, and convert vegetable peels into compost, which fetches an additional income.
Manish Dubey 12 April 2023 1:05 PM GMT
Juhi Parampurva (Kanpur), Uttar Pradesh
In a tiny school in Juhi Parampurva village in Kanpur district, Uttar Pradesh, Dharmendra Kumar Singh runs a school called Samrat Ashok Vidya Udyan, with 252 children. The school is no more than 325 square yards in area. The school building came into being in 2012. Before that children studied under a tin roof nearby.
“Of the 252 students who study here, 117 of them cannot afford to pay any fees. We do not take even a rupee from them. The rest of the students pay one rupee as admission charges and Rs 100 a month as fees,” Singh told Gaon Connection.
Most of the children who do not pay fees have no fathers and are in care of guardians who may or may not want to pay the money for their education. Singh said that was the reason nothing was charged from them.
“These are children who come from homes where rag picking is the source of income for the families. Often the mothers are abandoned by their husbands and they have to look after their children,” Singh said.
There are eleven teachers (two men and seven women) in the school that has classes from kindergarten to class eight.
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Singh, originally from Jaunpur in Kanpur district, is a postgraduate in science and holds a Bachelors in Mass Communications. The 46-year-old teacher is the author of a compilation of short stories, called Lohe Ka Sandook.
“The school is not a centre of profit. We have well wishers who have joined us in our efforts to provide education for these children and the school runs on their contributions,” Singh explained. Some benefactors donate books, some others sponsor the fees of a few of the children and there are also those who sponsor the teachers in order to pay their salaries, he said.
Learning and earning
The children in the school make cleaning rags and brushes with waste material, prepare compost with vegetable peels, etc, which are sold and some income is generated. “We have also involved some of the women in the area, who make the stuffed toys, etc. at home and give it to us. We sell them and pay them some money,” Singh added.
Soon big organisations such as HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) have begun to take the products the school makes. Children make stuffed toys, key rings, etc., that gives them an added incentive too.
In 2010-2011, Singh started a social media campaign for the children of rag pickers which generated a lot of interest. R Vikram, former DGP (Director general of police) of Uttar Pradesh between 2007 and 2009, was impressed with the campaign, and he reached out.
“He entrusted the work of eleven government schools to us. The teachers had to collect and collate data for the schools, and this earned us some money,” Singh said. Some of the students of Samrat Ashok Vidya Udyan, also found admission in some of these government schools, something they could never dream of.
This work generated some income and the pucca school building the children study in today was completed in 2012, with the help of Sahwesh (Samrat Ashok Human Welfare Education Sansthan), a non-profit started in April 2004. Before that, since 2002, the children studied outdoors.
Samrat Ashok Vidya Udyan has also become a kind of a study centre where students from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad and Kanpur University come here to research, the teacher said with pride. The governor of the state also honoured Dharmendra Singh last year for the social work he has been undertaking.