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Spreading education in dark alleys - Deccan Herald
Spreading education in dark alleys
Sanjay Pandey in Lucknow,
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A Try to Fight Foundation member teaches children at a slum in Varanasi.
It all started with a casual conversation at a roadside tea shop on a Sunday in one of the crowded lanes of Varanasi almost three years back. None of the three students had then even remotely imagined that it would turn out to be the most satisfying work of their lives.

The threesome were deeply moved, when they saw children, clad in dirty and worn clothes, picking up used plastic and other items from the heaps of garbage. "The thought of enjoying the day simply disappeared and we all were overwhelmed by their pitiable condition,” said Ranjeet Ranjan Upadhyaya, one of the students. Ranjeet, who is in his final year of PG in English at Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith in Varanasi, told DH that from that day their whole perception to life changed. "’We decided to educate such children,” said Yajat Dwivedi, a student of mass communication.

They started visiting the slums and other areas, where these children lived, met their parents and offered to teach them free of charge. "The parents were reluctant initially perhaps because of their past bitter experiences,” Ranjeet said.

He said that most of the parents felt that their children would be abandoned after a few months of teaching. They were justified as they had bitter experiences with a few NGOs. The organisations taught children for a few months and did a vanishing act.

The trio would visit slums and other such areas and hold classes for these children. "We began with three-four children…but the numbers started growing soon,” Yajat said. At present the group has been teaching more than 300 children in different localities in Varanasi. The number of active members of the group also risen to 30.

"We now have many students, who volunteer their services. All of them work with the single objective of spreading education to every corner and no one should be deprived of education,” he remarked.

The children, who attend their classes, are drawn from different backgrounds. "We have rag pickers…children of petty labourers and roadside vendors…poor children from outside Uttar Pradesh,” said Yajat.

The children did not have to go anywhere to attend the classes as the students hold the classes in the slums. "The classes are conducted amid the hustle and bustle of slums…the dirt and filth…but that doesn’t deter neither us nor the excited children,” said Vaibhav Mishra, another active member of the group.

The students have formed a Foundation to expand their activities. The name of the Foundation also sends out a message. It’s TTF (Try to Fight). "We must try to fight illiteracy…only an educated society can contribute to the progress of the country,” said Ankit Srivastava, another active group member.

The group tries hard to maintain the continuity. "We make every effort to hold the classes without a break. But being students ourselves we also have to appear in the examinations…we need time for preparation also…so during that period the continuity is broken,” said Yajat, the chief functionary of the Foundation.

He said that at times the children too, especially those from outside the state, go to their native places and return after a fortnight or a month. The group does not accept any financial help from either the government agencies or other individuals. "We arrange copies, books, pencils and pens for the children from our pocket money,” Ranjeet said..

He said that sometimes their seniors also chip in by donating pencils and other stationery items, impressed with their work. Interestingly the group members, though all of them reside in Varanasi, are staying in different localities and each one of them spares at least one hour from their schedule and dedicate it to the children.

Besides imparting knowledge of the language, mathematics, the children are also taught yoga, dance, music and computer. The group is seeing many positives in its work. "In the past three years many of the children, after taking lessons from us, have taken admission in reputed schools….their parents themselves took the initiative after seeing their determination and hard work,” said Ranjeet.

On whether their parents do not object to their teaching slum children at a time when they themselves must be looking for jobs and prepare for competitive examinations, Ranjeet said that the group members receive full cooperation from their families.

'’It is something no one can object to…after all we are only trying to give something back to society…we can at least spare a few hours for these children also…It Is not that we study all the time…if it is not for teaching the children many of us would have been strolling at the malls or watching movies,’’ he remarked.

The group members know very well that their task is not easy. '’What we are doing is nothing…there is so much to do…but we are satisfied that we are doing something for society and the country,’’ said Avinash Mishra, another member.

The group would love to expand its area of work. '’We want to reach out to such children in other parts of the county also….we have many limitations as well..we need vast resources for that..but we are hopeful that we will be able to fulfill our dream….no children should be without education,’’ he said.