Redefining society: The Chetna
Unpretentious and unassuming, right there, on the pavement, minus the walls, minus a ceiling, minus study tables and chairs, this is not your conventional classroom, but then this has the makings of all that education should be - eager tutors, and even more eager learners.
Today, we have crossed several cultural impediments and acknowledge the importance of education. We acknowledge education is the one and only social leveler. But does it have the focus it should?
You can find education in every nook and corner and we were pleasantly surprised to find it on the pavement outside one of the swish residential colonies of Noida, NCR, where not just one but all the members of the family of Havaldar R.K. Sharma were unquestioningly involved in imparting the wealth they had. The challenge in our society today lies not in scarcity but in its stark disparity. The challenge lies in absorption of education and circulation of it and this gap is preventing us from being the idyllic society that it can be. This difference in demand and supply can be bridged with just a little cognizance on our part and determination can be the game changer. This realization made Hav. R. K. Sharma make one such attempt in his corner of the world.
Troubled by the sight of many children of school-going age lurking on the streets or involved in labour, Hav. Rakesh Sharma decided to seek them out, teach them, and lured them to the school with promise of nourishing food and gifts at first and then by sowing the seed of hope and ambition that needs no further watering. This school might be on the pavement, this school might not have a shed or walls, but it nourishes dreams that hit the roof.
India's literacy rate is less than most of its neighbours and one of the main factors contributing to this relatively low literacy rate is ignorance about usefulness of education and availability of schools even in the metro cities. Hav. Sharma counters both these issues by spreading awareness of the need and then takes to the board himself to start the uphill journey.
Empty mind is a devil's workshop
He brought his pupils who were sifting through the dustbins and ushered them to his classroom, he went into the slums seeking out their parents and counselling them on the need for their children to study. Either the promise of better prospects or just the probability of freebies had them relenting. That was the first battle won, he then persevered to keep that rigour going, cajoling and coaxing the children to be regular and bring their friends and siblings along. His eyes glitter with pride when he talks about their grades soaring high so much so that he's appointed two of his pupils as the 'class monitors'. He finds his own ways and means of motivating these children to egg them on to dreaming big and then achieving those dreams.
Heat, rain or winters, he's there, with his better half and his children helping out from time to time, in between their lesson,s pitching in with their favourite subjects. His daughter, Pooja, can't disguise the pride she feels for her father and very confidently announces she will carry the legacy forward. She has witnessed the immense difference her father and her family's efforts are making to some lives and she thinks that 'we are very ordinary people and if we can do this, anyone can.' It sure doesn't take a super humans to contribute to society this selflessly, but it sure makes you one.
With his time and means Hav. Sharma could have concentrated on improving and upscaling his own life but when you meet him and his family, you could not have met anyone simpler and idealistic, who with their limited means concentrated on how they could be useful to the world around them. Conscience, 'Chetna', didn't have to knock twice at the Sharma residence.
Hav. Sharma aims at nipping antisocial activity in the bud. He has seen drug addiction, theft and other disruptive commotion thriving amidst the streets of these slums and villages bordering the relatively privileged residential societies and was convinced that the only way out is by engaging these young impressionable minds by education.
Undaunted learning in the absence of an idealistic world
Starting with 5, the number of students at this 'mother dairy' school, in Noida sector 99, have gone up to 65 in just about a year. He has also made efforts to get admission for some of the children who never knew the insides of a school. His complimentary work has attracted the attention of like-minded people in the vicinity and they have begun to support him by volunteering or funding his mission. Despite some demotivating factors that discourage him from continuing in the absence of proper infrastructure or affiliation, he believes there is no reason he should ignore these children and put their future at stake. He continues to march ahead and pave his own way not limited by his means.
Hav. Sharma redefines society as he is of the opinion that society is not made by a few people, it is made of each single person. Every child deserves an equal opportunity that he believes is the only mantra of success, success not of an individual, or a community but of the nation and then the whole wide world. While most of us are enraged by the world around us and can think of a hundred things wrong with it, here's Hav. Sharma's family who appreciate the progress India is making, the liberties our country bestows on us and how we need to repay it for our privileged existence.