JWB Takes a Class At The “Ankur Paathshaala”, a Free Tuition Centre for Underprivileged Children
- JWB Post
- October 14, 2015
We all have children in the neighbourhood that are uneducated and we often turn a blind eye toward them. It is only around the time of Makar Sakranti that we notice them running around, staring up at the sky. Ever wondered what their lives are like? Why they grow up to be undereducated even though schooling for these kids is free?
We met Mrs. Saroj Mehta and Mrs. Sarla Kothari, the founders of “Ankur Pathshaala” who have formed a free of cost tuition centre for these children. You will be surprised to know that these women do much more than just “teaching” students.
We met Saroj ji first.
Team JWB – How did you get the idea of doing something so uplifting for the children?
Saroj Ji – I was in Calcutta with my family, and then we moved to Jaipur. I have always been a teacher. I love teaching children. When I came here I met Sarla ji, and we began with only four children in July, 2015.
Team JWB – Wow, it hasn’t been too long then, has it?
Saroj ji – Yes! It’s only been a few months. We used to tell everyone in the colony that if they know children of drivers, dhobis, maids, they could send them to us and we would educate them.
Team JWB – How many students are you teaching currently?
Saroj ji – Right now we have a strength of 21 students!
Team JWB – How have things been different for them from then to now?
Saroj ji – We take students from class 1 to 5. When they joined initially, they were very weak. They couldn’t even read letters. We would ask them what they had studied at school. To which every student said that they were only made to copy what would be written on the board. They couldn’t pronounce A, B, C, D! Now we teach them counting, tables (points at the chart), and letters in Hindi. We mainly help them with their home-work; guide them in GK a little bit. And surely, they are developing. They now score as good as 45 on 50 in their exams. Earlier, they weren’t even close.
We were shortly joined by Mrs. and Mr. Kothari.
Team JWB – How many teachers are here currently?
Sarla ji – We have seven teachers working with us at the moment, and we wish to have more with us. Most of us are retired women whose children are settled and we are more or less free! So we decided to do something for the betterment of the society. We don’t pay to the teachers. They are voluntary workers here.
Saroj ji – Right now we are a small team including me (Saroj Mehta), Sarla Kothari, Savita Prakash, Neetu Miyabajaj, Anju Kochar and Shashi Taneja.
Team JWB – That’s incredible! I’m sure Jaipur will be proud of you. Do you also involve the kids in extracurricular activities?
Saroj ji – Ecstasy Club, a ladies club, has recently visited us. They have taught our children how to make candle stands using bangles and a few other crafts related to Diwali.
Team JWB – Tell us about your organization Poshan ?
Mr. Kothari – POSHAN is People for Optimum Social Health And Nutrition. Our cause mainly addresses malnutrition. We do this by giving supplements to pregnant women. This, in turn, makes sure that women deliver healthy babies. We started it with the “Jhaalana” area and then “Sanjay Nagar Basti” in Vaishali Nagar. We met with UNICEF in a discussion about the issue.
Sarla ji – Chairperson of UNICEF Jaipur said that he felt it was a very innovative idea and probably the first of its kind in India. Government programmes are usually for malnutritioned children and programmes for pregnant women are rare. We started with the flavoured milk of Saras, and today more than 180 women have been taking it – and all the pregnant women who have taken our supplements have delivered healthy babies. After their delivery, we hand over a “baby kit” to them. A baby kit contains two pairs of clothes for a child, nappies, and basically sterilized clothing which is hard for them to find in rural regions. After the delivery of the baby, they take a fifteen day rest, in those fifteen days we provide them with homemade laddoos to ensure good health of them, too.
Team JWB – What is your plan for the future of Ankur Pathshala?
Sarla Ji – We wish to make our area Smart Tilak Nagar, where every single child is educated. Years ago, when we were in Ajmer, we began a similar tuition system over there, and what amazing is that so many years later, even today, it is still being practiced.
Team JWB – How do you make sure that the children remain disciplined?
Saroj ji – We have a “piggy bank” in which every student who is absent puts in a One Rupee coin. So if they take a day off, they have to tell their parents, ask them for money, and parents usually scold them. This keeps them balanced and makes sure that they attend their classes every day. At the same time, if they score well, we make the entire class clap for them. That boosts up their confidence and their zeal to work harder also increases. Sometimes we even give them little gifts like pencils, rubbers, scales or a copy, if they do extremely well.
Team JWB – What about children who have cleared their fifth class?
Sarla ji – Yes, we have that planned out as well. Soon, we will begin to rope in teachers who can give tuition to students from Class 8th to 10th.
Team JWB – The chidren must of course manage to create chaos with some mischiefs?
Saroj ji – Oh! You have no idea! Sometimes they will tear off the homework page from their copy and then later lie that they know nothing about it! Also, every day before they leave, we make them recite the tables. Some children at times sneak away, it’s adorable. But of course, we have to pretend to not enjoy these cute, innocent things – or they will get out of hand.
After chatting with these wonderful people, we met the children who came rushing in. They took off their shoes in the corner of the room, dropped their bags off their shoulders, and said Namaste to their teachers.
So guys, if you feel inspired by their story, contact them, they’d love to have more teachers on board. And if you know more students, maybe you can start your own “Ankur Pathshaala”. Our Classroom on Wheels team would also like to take tips from their team!