A dozen tiny pairs of slippers and the familiar sound of children reciting a math table in chorus welcome you to Radha Kumar's house in Paradise Apartments, Sector 9, Dwarka.
She has been teaching the children of housemaids, servants, guards and rickshaw pullers of the surrounding localities for the past two and a half years.
“My daughter, Amrita, inspired me to do something for the society," Kumar says. "I thought that giving children an education was the best way, and took the first step by teaching my maid's son in my own house. In a week, he was joined by two others, and the number rose to three. What was surprising was that in three months I was teaching nine students. It was encouraging. There are about 40 children today, and the number of teachers has grown to six.”
How did the number of students and teachers grow so quickly?
A social activist in the same society, Poonam Tyagi, is the answer. She got to know about Kumar's initiative through a friend. and decided to spread the word, so more people from the locality could contribute and more kids could be helped. The classes were held in parks, which attracted other residents. In no time, several housewives were working with Kumar as teachers.
“One of the guards came to us for his grandchild's education and we were able to help him. It was so satisfying and such a boost to our morale,” says Tyagi.
Residents of Paradise Apartments with their students
The group manages the children's education. It has even got many of them enrolled in government schools.
Recently, two visually impaired girls have joined the growing list of teachers — Mona Tomar, a Political Science student from Daulat Ram College, and Gunjan Paswan, who's pursuing B.Ed from Delhi University.
“It is the best feeling in the world. Education is the most effective tool, and we are providing it to these children," says Tomar. "We come here after classes and on holidays to teach them. We even tell them stories, teach them songs and work on their general knowledge.”
Some of the teachers have divided the teaching shifts among themselves. There are also those who can take on bigger responsibilities. Rena Bawa is one of them. A retired principal, she takes classes without missing a day. Kumar and Tyagi teach English, Shashi teaches Mathematics, and Bawa takes Hindi, English and Sanskrit classes. “We are the core members of our team, but other residents also pitch in when they have time,” Bawa says.
Abdul, the son of a barber; Sakaldev, the son of a rickshaw puller; and Ruby, a maid's daughter, are testimony to the group's efforts. All of them can speak English and know how to read and write Hindi. The best part about this initiative is that not only does it spread the message that a child's education is important, but it also acts as a safety net against ills such as child labour and drug addiction.
The group doesn't claim to have brought about a revolution. All they are doing is giving a few hours of their "me" time to help the deprived. "We would like to spread this initiative to other societies. If we find people interested, we will support then by providing the necessary stationery. We take a small step at a time — such as ensuring our maids can write their names — but we ahve a bigger goal. If every society took such an initiative, we could help millions," Kumar says.