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The school under the bridge

ISP Delhi Bureau 

The national capital Delhi is witness to a splendid experiment for more than a decade now. A free school for children under the bridge run by a grocery shop owner and his team. 

The founder Rajesh Kumar and his accomplice Laxmi Chandra have run the makeshift school with their own personal expenses and have taught thousands of children to give them an opportunity to strive for a better future. Within the first year of their work, 140 children enrolled with them. By 2019, there were as many as 300 children in the school, however, the number has come down due to post pandemic conditions. 

Rajesh Kumar and his team of volunteers founded an informal school for slum children under a metro bridge near Akshardham flyover. The most important aspect of this experiment has been that Rajesh himself has no background in teaching. He dedicated two hours everyday out of his grocery shop work to teach the children and prepare them to enter formal schools in East Delhi. Lately, government schools in Delhi Education Directorate have been proactive in letting his children get admitted to regular schools. 

The open space under the Yamuna Bank Metro Station is witness to a history in making as migrant labourers, rickshaw pullers and labourers line up every morning to drop their kids to this oasis of knowledge. The children who come from the nearby slums lack basic documents to be enrolled in regular schools. Once admitted in these free schools, the volunteers give them the basic education and also help them with the paperwork to enrol in government schools. Children here are also provided with textbooks and notebooks by well wishers who are part of the project. 

“The number of children has come down now. It is partially because many labourers have not returned after Corona and also because the slums in the area are now fast decreasing due to municipal vigilance,” Free School teacher Laxmi Chandra told ISP. 

Though the regular children have down. Now children in government schools come to the place to seek help with their homework and to get a healthy place to pursue their extra studies. Another important thing which the Free School does is to discourage parents from engaging the kids in labour work. 

The Free School is clearly distinguishable from a distance as the area under the bridge is beautifully decorated by paintings and international volunteers join Rajesh and Laxmi to enhance the ambience of the open area of the school with inspiring quotes and graffiti. 

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