Tribune News Service
Gurdaspur, January 15
You will never gain anyone’s approval by begging for it. When you stand firm and confident of your own worth, respect automatically follows.
This is the motto of this border district’s only school which specifically caters to children of beggars, slum dwellers and ragpickers.
The Preliminary Education Study Centre was opened in March 2018 at the Ram Nagar area which is known for housing slum dwellers and ragpickers. Romesh Mahajan, secretary of the District Child Welfare Council, is the spirit behind this non-profit making initiative.
It was opened on panchayat land with just 15 children on its rolls. Slowly but very steadily this figure rose to 20 then 25 before Mahajan decided to stop “admissions” when the strength reached 35. He did not have the requisite number of teachers and allied staff to teach more than 35 students.
Manjit Kaur and Ashu Attri, both post-graduates, are the two teachers who spend a minimum of eight hours daily, six days a week, trying to improve the lot of these underprivileged kids.
They are aided by Red Cross De-addiction Centre councillors, Komalpreet Kaur, a post-graduate in computer applications and Abha Sharma, a post-graduate in computer science, and Dolly Sharma, the last one who lends a helping hand to the teaching staff.
Once the students acquire proficiency in basic education, like reading, writing and recitation, they are shifted to nearby government primary schools to further hone their skills.
Mahajan pockets a bill of Rs 2.75 lakh per annum for being a ‘Good Samaritan.’ Mid-day meals, too, are served to the children. “When a child is admitted, the parents’ main motive is to make certain he or she gets a meal. After all, nobody wants his child to sleep on an empty stomach. Slowly, the kids get familiarised with the environment and start enjoying their stay,” said Komalpreet.
“I am not doing all this to get any honour or praise. Nobody applauds nature, yet she still glows. I am doing this to ensure these children get to live a life of dignity once they step into the outside world. They are like wet cement, hence, whatever falls upon them makes an impression. I try to make certain they face no hassles while getting taught,” he quips.
Three years after he established the Ram Nagar centre, he moved it to Maan Kaur Singh village, yet another area which is inhabited by people reeling in poverty. Like in Ram Nagar here, too, tents have been erected on panchayat land to provide a roof to the young ones.
His scouts regularly visit slum areas, railway stations and the bus stands to identify and “bring home” children.
The centre has tied up with the office of the Civil Surgeon as far as taking care of the health needs is concerned. 60 per cent of the youngsters are anaemic when they arrive. When they leave, not only do their red blood cells increase but their writing and reading skills too show considerable improvement.