Numerous tanneries, dilapidated homes crunched in tiny spaces, daily quarrels due to financial debts and countless children loitering on the streets.
These visuals aptly described the lives of hundreds of tannery labourers in the suburb of Jajmau in the leather city of Kanpur until a few years ago.
But what bothered 20-year-old Sana Parveen was how these children were ignoring education, their only chance at transforming their financial and social conditions.
Sana recalls how she would often find these kids right outside the door, speaking in a crude language, hurling abuses at each other. Many of them never had the fortune to even look at a school gate. And so, when she decided to speak to the parents who worked as tannery labourers to send the kids to school, she met with strong resistance, anger and humiliation.
But Sana stood undeterred. The graduate from Kanpur University is educating the kids of these tannery labourers free of cost.
Most of the parents she interacted with were against sending their kids to school simply because they thought if the child worked at the tannery, they would be able to earn a minimum daily wage of Rs 200-400. The parents believed that this would help alleviate their financial burden. Besides, they believed going to school was an additional financial investment that had no returns.
And so, to convince the labourers to send their kids to school, Sana transformed her own home into a school to provide education to these underprivileged kids. What’s more, she did not charge them anything.
Sana was fortunate to have had the support of her father, Naushad, who helped her convince the families to allow their kids to go to Sana. Looking at the two kids, more and more students started joining in.
In 2015, Sana and Naushad turned a small part of their house into a classroom by raising a brick wall.
From then on, this small space has been accommodating over 80 kids, right from playgroup to Class 5, at different times of the day. Today Sana, alongside her father Naushad, and her teammates, Zainab and Najo, is providing primary education to these kids.
Of the 80, 65 kids regularly attend school. From their uniform, stationery, bags and shoes, everything is given to them free of cost. The money for these necessities is raised through donations from locals and good Samaritans, who often get the required items before the new academic year starts.
Speaking to the Hindi daily Navbharat Times, Sana says, ‘The area I am residing and working in is very backward vices. I truly believe education is the only thing that can pull them out and transform their lives. I want to help them become better and responsible citizens of the country. We have children from all religions and castes studying here. Most of them are extremely underprivileged. So, all it required for me to convince their parents to send them to school was a free education.”
We salute Sana and her team for their efforts and wish them continued success. Her story also proves how free education can go a long way in changing lives.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)