Every child has the right to a good education that can help them build a good life for themselves, even underprivileged children. Recognising this, Jitender Nath Yadav, a constable in Jhansi, has taken it upon himself to impart basic education to the underprivileged kids in his community.
Jitender Yadav still clearly remembers the moment he was inspired to act, “I saw many of these kids sitting around playing gotiyaan and marbles, doing nothing basically. I felt pained that they were wasting their time at an age in their lives when they should be studying.”
This was the start of a self-driven venture in learning and education in Jhansi by DIG Jitender Nath Yadav, a constable who encountered this scene on his way to work one day.
Ignoring the path of least resistance, and the easiest option we all take every single day of our lives, even in the big cities, as we pass by urban slums, Yadav decided to do something about it and take matters into his own hands instead.
He knew he had to start with the parents, “Their fathers would be hanging around close by, playing cards. I could see some of the slightly older children also pick the habit up after a while.” Yadav prepped himself for what he knew was an uphill battle. It would be no mean task convincing the parents.
He tells us that the parents were reluctant at first, but warmed up quite soon, “My attempt was to make them understand that if things continue this way, and this is how the kids grow up, then their fate will never change. They will always be on the road, always be penniless, and their children too would live similar, if not exactly the same, lives as them.”
Yadav was in for a pleasant surprise, because the parents agreed, most quite readily. His line of reasoning had worked.
Thus Yadav started off. He roped in his friend Rajendra Raye to help with the task, and the classes started off. A designated spot was chosen by Yadav where the children would be sent, and they began coming in, taking their places in front of a tree where Yadav and Raye had assembled their tools, comprising a whiteboard that they hung on the tree, markers, and some stationery for the children. Starting time was marked for around noon, because Yadav works the evening shift at the local thana, and so the constable chalked out the first half of his day for his new moonlighting role as teacher.
It’s an informal setting, but the regularity of the intervention has made this a valuable contribution. Neha, one of the children-turned-students who frequent Yadav’s “school” tells us that she is learning ABCD (“both small and capital letters”), and a lot of nursery rhymes and poems in English. She’s also having fun, she says.
Yadav has put thought into the curriculum, and even though it’s largely DIY, the structure is very sound. He also has a plan he’s working towards, he shares, “The aim is to make them capable enough to get themselves fit for a proper, more formalized learning environment.” His initiative has performed a leap of faith here.
Yadav has already spoken with the local school principal, of Apis Sidhiqui School, about his informal venture, and the school is very keen to welcome these kids in.
The parents of the children are thrilled at the results. They beam proudly as the little ones rattle off the poems and churn out the greetings they’ve been taught, wishing them good morning, and asking almost everyone they meet now, “What is your name?” Says Yadav, “They are struggling each day to make ends meet somehow.” They had probably never thought there was a chance, or even a hint, at another life for their children.
Yadav firmly believes that good intent and good deeds go a long, long way. Once you start, others are bound to follow. He says, “My colleagues, fellow officers, and seniors, they all support me in this. They like my initiative and encourage me.” His daily schedule now incorporates a stop at the tree, his magical new classroom, before he heads off to work his evening shift duty. He couldn’t be gladder, “I just thank God I am able to do this. I feel lucky, I feel blessed.”
The children wish us a “Good Afternoon, Madam”, as we bid our farewells.