Professors and Basti kids: Learning to explore the world together

In a first time ever, this Delhi University college's teachers have adopted the neighbourhood working class community of Basti Khwaja Mir Dard. WION brings you this exclusive story (WION)

WION Delhi, India Apr 20, 2017, 01.57 PM (IST) Zeba Khan

While we are flooded on social media with quotes of inspiration, hope and dreams--here’s a story that is an embodiment of the phrase “every little bit goes a long way”.

Touching the lives of many, teachers and students from one of the oldest educational institute in the country - Zakir Husain Delhi College of Delhi University - are working to bring a wholesome change in their neighbourhood.

The teachers have adopted a nearby Basti (slum) Khwaja Meer Dard which is just a stone’s throw away from the college premises, taking responsibility of children’s educational needs.

Outreach Committee, which looks over the workings of these activities, not only imparts teaching lessons to kids on a daily basis but also engages them in co-curricular activities like picnics, educational trips around the city, educational movie marathons and more.

It started on 26th July 2016, when Dr. Devesh Vijay, the founding member along with the supportive staff went inside the basti to understand their problems. Dr. Vijay and a teaching faculty in the college agreed, “Teaching has been a big success. When we enquired from the basti seniors, they said ‘not all kids get proper schooling and it is one important area where we could contribute’. It’s one thing we are good at and we immediately agreed to it.”

Beyond teaching in a formal setup of a classroom, volunteering teachers and students find this as a “great opportunity to connect with the society, learn about its problems and effectuate the process of change--much beyond the world of classrooms and textbooks.”

We have poor neighbours nearby and as a college we have proper infrastructure, teaching talent and most importantly student youth power--if not us then who?
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I ask him the reason for choosing Basti Khwaja Meer Dard in the first place and he says, “Proximity is the key reason as any other place would have included commute. We wanted to start something feasible for all, something we could do everyday in the long run and this Basti was perfect in that sense. Every day after our classes are over, we head to the basti for an hour  with teachers in tow who go to teach in batches.”

Vijay compassionately adds, “We have poor neighbours nearby and as a college we have proper infrastructure, teaching talent and most importantly student youth power--if not us, then who?

All colleges must do this as the change is heartening to see, children’s results have improved considerably and nothing makes us more happy.”

Shehnaaz Parveen, teaching faculty at college who is also a part of the initiative says, “Students of the basti are very diligent. They come to class on time whether teachers are there or not. I was initially very hesitant to come here (basti) but have had a great experience so far. Apart from regular classes, we also give the kids’ life skills and disaster management training.”

In a span of 10 months, these classes have improved grades of students. Vijay says, “After their annual results were declared, most students came with their school report cards, and it was a great feeling to see that their results shot up by good margins. As a result many new families have approached to join the regular classes.”

Shumayla, a girl student who regularly attends these classes says, “Teachers here are very good. Whatever I learn here, it remains with me. Apart from regular course classes, they also pay special emphasis on improving our language and give reading and recitation lessons in English and Hindi. When I was in 8th standard, I was a weak student but with time my grades have improved and now I have been promoted to 10th standard with good grades. My favourite subject is science and maths and I want to pursue it in higher studies.”

Sania and Bushra are college students who have been associated with the initiative from the start. They call it an “experience in itself” as there has been a “tremendous change in the behaviour and conduct of these students”.

They say, “Apart from teaching we also try to imbibe mannerisms in the kids: like how to sit in class, how to answer to a teacher and they are always eager to learn.”

Basti Khwaja Meer Dard has no playgrounds, so we provide them with a space to play, most have not seen a movie on a big screen and we organise educational movies once every month. When these kids go out with us on educational trips, they learn from us. They have learnt how to walk in a queue or to not litter on the roads
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Ajay Kumar is also a college student who teaches the kids twice in a week. He says, “I joined in the month of November and  have continued ever since. It’s a service really and service itself is a reward. I come twice in a week to teach science. I have learnt so much from these little ones--we learn when we come to teach.”

He narrates an incident where he pronounced a word wrong in Hindi, altering its meaning and how the kids corrected him. He is currently aiming for Indian Civil Services but if that doesn’t go through, he aims to teach for a living.

Running a successful program and bringing a cheer on the faces of many deprived kids, Vijay hopes that “this could get replicated everywhere in all colleges”.

He wishes UGC to make it “mandatory for all colleges under its purview to include surrounding areas in a dialogue for change”.

He says, “It’s not charity but the best way to learn about our vicinity.

“In our case, Basti Khwaja Meer Dard has no playgrounds, so we provide them with a space to play, most have not seen a movie on a big screen and we organise educational movies once every month. When these kids go out with us on educational trips, they learn from us. They have learnt how to walk in a queue or to not litter on the roads.”

Currently, the Committee is facilitating lessons for students from all class groups and next year plans to start a cleanliness drive in the basti with an aim to extend modern, hygienic way of life in those--for whom it’s never even a topic of debate.

(WION)

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