The space under a metro bridge near Yamuna river in Delhi is the education hotspot for hundreds of children from nearby slums in Delhi.
‘The Free School Under The Bridge’, is an initiative run by the Rajesh Kumar Sharma, a 49-year-old local shop owner in Laxmi Nagar.
In 2006, the idea to start a makeshift school struck him while strolling close to the Yamuna. He has since then trained educated 300 kids and even managed to get a bunch of teachers and people from other professions to volunteer as teachers for the kids at his make-shift school.
Rajesh runs two batches daily, the morning batch from 9 to 11 a.m is for boys and the afternoon batch from 2 to 4.30 p.m is for girls. A total of 120 boys and 180 girls attend the class with the metro pillars as blackboards and study in groups. A few of the kids are enrolled in nearby government schools. Rajesh makes sure to keep a check on their attendance.
Rajesh himself hails from a middle-class family in which he is the only breadwinner. He runs a small grocery shop to provide for his family. Rajesh had to give up his education in college where he was studying science due to financial difficulties. He firmly believes that no child should be robbed of their education.
Its been over a decade for Rajesh's free school. He mentions that he has witnessed the change of governments in power, but none offered any help. He has been approached by NGOs in the past, but their ideology and motives didn't fit right with Rajesh, and therefore he didn’t affiliate. However, he doesn’t have any regrets or complaints. He says, “I am driven by my selfless goal of educating these poor and underprivileged children whose smile is more than enough for me”.