A school is not made of the walls, the corridors, the desks, the uniforms or the blackboards. A school is made of its teachers who are willing to impart the knowledge they have and students eager to understand and learn about the world. In that sense, a school without any walls or uniforms under a metro bridge in Delhi is as much a school as any big private school.
Named “Free School: Under the Bridge” by founder Rajesh Kumar Sharma, a grocery store owner, the school has a decade-long journey to tell.
Photo source: Facebook
Today the open space under the bridge near Yamuna Bank Metro station stands witness to hundreds of poor children of migrant workers, labourers, rickshaw-pullers and farmers who live in shacks and hutments in the villages by the river Yamuna, being educated every day.
“The school has been around for over a decade. Rajeshji has been pursuing his cause relentlessly. It is only in the past few years that he has found more teachers and some media coverage for the school. As it falls on my way to work, I visit the school regularly and try to help in any small ways that I can. I recently gave 500 textbooks and some stationery items like pens, pencils and diaries. However, I wish I could do more,” says Dhananjay Singh, who works with a private firm in the area.
The school has over 300 girls and boys studying in different classes enrolled in different government schools. Many come to the free school under the bridge after their school hours to be able to understand the curriculum better. Rajesh encourages them to enrol in government schools because it helps them avail several benefits like mid-day meals and free books, which the school under the bridge cannot provide.
“In the Free School, they are assisted in completing the homework and understanding what they are taught at school. The time they spend here would also have been otherwise wasted in roaming around or gossiping. Many parents are unhappy with our school because they want their children to either work part-time jobs or look after their households or younger siblings. It takes a lot of convincing for the parents to allow their kids to come to the school. But once they understand that it’s for their children’s future, they agree,” says Rajesh.
Rajesh, who had once dreamed of becoming an engineer but couldn’t pursue his dream due to financial constraints, is hoping that none of his students share his fate.
“I don’t want this generation to lose out just because they are poor.I could not become an engineer because of financial constraints. I had to drop out of college. Through these children, I get to live my own dream. I will see them realise their dreams and soar high,” he says.
The school runs two sessions every day – two hours for boys in the morning and two hours for the girls in the afternoon. Although the school doesn’t have classrooms and corridors, it certainly has its own personality given to it by its students.
The bleak area has been transformed by the children & their teachers with paintings on walls and potted plants adorning the place. Children clean the area every day before classes and tidy up before going home.
“I always tell them- don’t cry for what you don’t have. Make the best of what you have to achieve what you don’t have today,” says Rajesh.
To contribute to the Free School Under The Bridge on Milaap, click here.