Educating Dalit children through Bhim Pathshalas, an initiative of the Bhim Army, is slowly gaining ground in Uttar Pradesh.
What started as free after-school coaching classes in Saharanpur city has now spread across the state with nearly 1000 such classes including in the cities of Meerut, Agra and Muzaffarnagar.
Students are also being taught about Dalit struggle and history in these classes which were started in 2015.
The Bhim pathshalas were started with the aim of providing free coaching to children in view of the lack of such facilities in government schools and the inability of parents to afford coaching for their children, said a district president of the Bhim Army.
"You are aware of the state of the government schools in the state. We provide this service for free for the children, our members come together, with money and resources and the educated ones conduct the classes, mostly at a member's residence," said Kamal Walia, the Saharanpur district president of Bhim Army.
"There are over a thousand such schools all over the state in many districts. Apart from regular academics, we also make the children aware about Bhim Army, about the struggles, lives and thoughts of all great leaders who took a stand for the poor and the oppressed," he added.
"Since around two years, I have been running a branch of the Bhim Pathshala. It was about the same time when Chandrashekhar Azad, Kamal Walia, Vinay Ratan and Manjit Singh Nautiyal were travelling from village to village and were promoting the thoughts of Baba Saheb. They also told us about the Bhim Army. They made us aware of the atrocities Dalits face in our society and inspired us to take a stand them," said Sarita Ambedkar, national spokesperson of the Bhim Army Women's Wing.
"Because Dalits cannot afford to send their children to private schools for quality education, we took the initiative to educate them properly so that a change can be brought in the society through education," Ambedkar added.
Bhim Army, a Dalits' rights organisation, was founded in 2014 by Chandrashekhar Azad and Vinay Ratan Arya for the development of Dalits, lower castes and other marginalised sections of society. The organisation, which works for Dalit emancipation through education, runs free schools for Dalits in Uttar Pradesh.