Under a Delhi flyover, Van Phool School is changing the lives of young children
On a regular day at 7 AM, around 140-150 students reach their makeshift school under the Mayur Vihar flyover in Delhi. The school runs in two separate shanties made of bamboo and wood, one for children below five years and the other for classes 4th and above.
Students from nearby villages study all subjects and take part in extracurricular activities. They even appear for exams every 15 days. Apart from free education, these children are also served hot and fresh midday meals every day.
The school is run by three teachers, and at times, people from nearby areas visit and donate stationery, books or other educational supplies to these children. Naresh, the founder of this makeshift school, has worked hard to make this as sustainable as possible. He has used an old bamboo temple as the storeroom, waste tarpaulin sheet for shelter and discarded benches from private schools as the furniture. The two washroom facilities were donated by an NGO. Some people also donated a few saplings for the open area.
Naresh began teaching in 2011 when he migrated from his village in Uttar Pradesh. He is currently preparing for the UPSC exams.
“Running a school for 150 students every day is not easy. We as a community should come forward and see it as a challenge. Our civil society should take out time and shape their lives, especially in the time of COVID-19”, says Naresh.
At a time when the pandemic brought disruption in education, this makeshift school brought relief to the worried parents and children. Almost none of their parents own a smartphone, in fact, there is not a single mobile phone in many households.
Most of the parents of these children are domestic help, farmers, or drivers. Amid the pandemic, these students have been taught social distancing, proper hygiene, and necessary precautions.
“We love studying here. Our favourite subjects are Maths and Science. I want to become a teacher when I grow up. I will also teach students”, says Akash.
And this isn’t the only one. In northeast Delhi’s Yamuna Khadar area, temporary schools, also known as “Van Phool Schools”, imparting free education to children is a common sight. There are many volunteers and teachers who spare a few hours every day.
Khushboo Kawat, a teacher here currently pursuing Political Science Honours at Delhi University’s PGDAV college, teaches students from class 5th till 10th.
“We have seen a drastic improvement in almost every student. All of them know how to read and write. They are motivated to follow their dreams,” says Khushboo.
Each day after teaching between 7 to 10 AM, the teachers disperse to attend their own online classes. Many have themselves been students of the Van Phool schools. As the clock turns to 10 AM, teachers wipe clean their whiteboards and the students prepare to head home.